Very Fair — And Pro-Pharma — Points, In Forbes This Morning

Okay — quickly this morning, as I run off to other meetings, I just wanted to point readers to the piece written by John LaMattina (a retired pharma guy), in Forbes. His is in response to a Guardian (UK) article over the weekend. Do go read both. Certainly, The Guardian is right insofar as HPV is not — in any way — a serious morbidity threat (compared to other causes) in, for example, Rwanda.

I’ll leave the point-counterpoint at that, but will note that it is refreshing to see a balanced view articulated here, by a former pharma maven. And — lest we too soon forget — my graphic at right reminds that Merck is day by day reversing river blindness in Africa, entirely for free — now, more than two decades on. And that, my friends, is a very high-impact donation, from a public health perspective.

Enough. Do go read it all — but a bit is here:

. . . .Industry critics would prefer that companies work in conjunction with the developing world to bring forward medicines that would be more cost-effective in meeting their needs. Rather than having Pharma “push” medicines that they already have in their portfolios into the developing world, countries would prefer it if Pharma would work on diseases that predominate in these regions.

Well, that’s not a bad suggestion. In fact, it would surprise a lot of people to know the broad extent that Pharma is already doing this. . . .

To be sure, this is always a delicate balance — between being responsible for maximizing quarter-by-quarter profits (for the company’s public shareholders, as required by applicable corporate law) and creating long-term reputational “goodwill” value. . . also for the public shareholders, by curing diseases for which there is unlikely ever to be a profitable market model. But because that latter bit is less easily quantified, pharma concerns open themselves to criticism, and perhaps even lawsuits, for breach of fiduciary duty, if they too vigorously pursue profit-less disease states — for cures, especially in the far-flung corners of the globe.

But these are initiatives that pharma simply must continue to pursue — if the industry wishes to preserve its legitimacy — in the now emerging claims to circumvent patents on drugs (which are, afterall, 17 year monopoly powers — for self-developed molecules) in some of these same geographies, around the globe.

At the end of the day, we aren’t talking about fun tech gadgets — for the ultra-wealthy — in country (luxury items, like an iPhone 5, or the like). No, we are talking about medicines that decide (in many geographies, into the low millions of lives) who lives on into adulthood — and who dies. At least, that is my opinion.

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