In protest of the activities of multinational drug companies and the global drug industry, Global Justice Now have organised an event on Thursday 9th November which will gather like minds together to talk about the impact of immoral commercial activity.
The frustration underpinning the event comes from the disconnect between medical advancement and the suffering of millions around the world who suffer and die from treatable conditions purely due to their inability to pay for needlessly expensive medicine.
It is alleged that drug companies can charge runaway prices because new drugs are protected by legal monopolies. The model has made the pharmaceutical industry the most profitable in the world.
The recent Consumers International Report sheds some light on the operation of the drug industry, finding that drug companies use unscrupulous and unethical marketing tactics not only to influence doctors to prescribe their products but also subtly to persuade consumers that they need them.
Consumers should be concerned because time and again the companies violate their own industry’s ethical marketing codes. Patients’ health may suffer if a drug such as Vioxx – a painkiller later withdrawn – is over-promoted. Yet, says Consumers International in its report, there is “a shocking lack of publicly available information about the $60bn spent annually by the industry on drug promotion”.
The report examines the marketing practices of 20 of the world’s biggest drug companies. It alleges that:
…#8226; Drug companies are promoting their products through patients groups, students and internet chatrooms to bypass the ban on advertising except to doctors.
…#8226; They offer information to the public on “modern” lifestyle diseases, such as stress, to encourage people to ask their doctors for medicines.
…#8226; They make inaccurate claims about the safety and efficacy of their drugs.
…#8226; Doctors are offered incentives to prescribe and promote drugs including kickbacks, gifts, free samples and consulting agreements.
…#8226; Many companies have been implicated in anti-competitive strategies, including cartels and price hikes
The Brighton event will host a number of speakers including Sibongile Tshabalala, deputy general secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, Emma Robertson, patient-leader at Just Treatment, and Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now campaigner Key in the event will be the exposition of immoral practice and the discussion of routes toward progress.
It is argued that companies justify high prices by claiming they need to recoup their research and development costs. But nine of the top ten pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than on research and development. And the majority of innovative early-stage research is actually publicly-funded.
Organisers at Global Justice Now say it’s time to put people before profit in the global drug industry.