Doctors Without Borders' view on Big Pharma
Our expert's opinion
"Usually I like to react about articles that I agree with, that are interesting and/or innovating. This time I’ll do the opposite.
Recently, Medecins Sans Frontières, the famous non-profit organization that helps millions of suffering people in need all over the world each year (and for which I have a huge respect, being active in charity work myself), published an article on their website slandering the big pharma’s in 6 points. The main idea they are conveying is about the price of drugs being too expensive on purpose and the cost of their development being a lie as well. I can’t stand down in front of such unfounded accusations. These 6 points are not true and the only source that they used was a random article about biotechs’ business models. The article is using a lot of numbers but no way to know where they come from.
The truth is that developping a new drugs is an extremely long and costy process. It requires heavy investments and hundreds of hard working scientists, as well as quality engineers, to make sure that the drug will work correctly and not harm its users. If it weren’t for these companies, taking enormous risks over sometimes 10 years to bet on these drugs, Medecins Sans Frontieres would not be able to follow its mission as well. This article is nothing but another clickbait conspiracy theory and it saddens me that it comes from such a popular and well regarded organization. Let’s focus on finding solutions for NGO’s to partner with biotechs and pharma companies, instead of making them fight together.
What is your opinion on this ? Do you really believe that people who are dedicating their lives to develop new ways to help others are fundamentaly greedy like depicted here?"
- Antoine Desprez, Associate Consultant
6 things Big Pharma doesn't want you to know!
For decades, the global pharmaceutical industry has spread a deceptive narrative justifying the ever-increasing, sky-high prices of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics as something necessary and inevitable.
MSF’s Access Campaign has repeatedly challenged this deadly narrative, calling for affordable access to lifesaving medicines, prioritization of people’s health over profits, and transparency around the research and development (R&D) process.
Yet pharmaceutical corporations continue to perpetuate a series of myths about the development costs and pricing of medicines and other health products, in order to protect their profit-maximising practices – at the expense of people’s lives. One pharmaceutical financial investors’ report even went as far as to ask, “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?”
Here are some of the industry’s dirty, not-so-little secrets they’d prefer you not know!
1. Developing drugs is not as expensive as they say
Big Pharma exaggerates the costs of R&D of new medicines to justify their high pricing, and often categorise ‘opportunity costs’ and non-research activities, such as the cost of buying another company, as R&D costs. While Big Pharma often says it costs US$2-3 billion to develop a new drug, other credible estimates are at least 10 times lower – in the $100-200 million range.
2. You’re paying twice for your medicines
Corporations free-ride off public, taxpayer-funded research at government and university laboratories, from which most new drugs and health technologies originate. They get tax credits and other financial incentives to ‘de-risk’ their research investments, and privatise and patent the resulting products. Then they charge high prices to taxpayers and governments.
3. The pharma industry is poor at innovation
About two-thirds of the new drugs that arrive on the market are no better than what we already have. Pharma corporations put more effort into developing so-called ‘me-too drugs’ than finding true therapeutic breakthroughs.
4. Patents are extended – over and over – to prolong monopolies
A notorious pharma tactic is patent ‘evergreening’, where corporations file for additional patents on small changes to existing drugs, thereby lengthening their monopoly and blocking affordable generic products.
5. Pharma bullies developing countries for going against their corporate interests
Time and again, Big Pharma uses pressure tactics or oppressive legal actions against low- and middle-income countries like India, South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia and Malaysia for prioritizing people’s health over pharma’s interests. Together with some wealthy countries, pharma tries hard to influence international trade rules to benefit themselves, even if it hurts public health.
6. Pharma pockets more than they re-invest
Big Pharma says they need huge profits so they can pay for R&D and innovation. But in reality, they spend more on share buybacks to boost their own stock prices, and on sales and marketing, than on R&D.