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Pharmaceutical companies and the NHS vs Cuban system Watch

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    My view is that pharmaceutical companies are bum raping the NHS (and the healthcare world generally) and I thought a discussion might be claritive because I am possibly missing some of the information.

    This was inspired by something I read recently about pharmaceutical research in Cuba. Cuba has a government-funded pharmaceutical research programme which has produced around 1200 international patents so far.

    Their recent products include new vaccinations against hepatitis B and a type of haemophilus influenze, and the new drug Heberprot-P which is currently the only available to effectively treat diabetic foot ulcer.

    In Cuba, where infectious disease is a more significant health problem than it is here, their pharmaceutical research has been able to produce vast health improvements at a minimal cost. AND the cuban government can also sell its patented innovations to the international community resulting in a public profit.

    Compare this to our system (in the UK, US and in Europe as a whole) of generating pharmaceuticals:
    Most of the earlier inventive research is done in a government-funded way, then pharmaceutical companies help with some of the later-stage costs, patent the product, and reap an enormous profit.
    A comissioner for the EU has determined that europeans pay about an extra 40% cost for producing pharmaceuticals in this way than if the companies were removed from the equation.

    Before anyone says that pharmaceutical companies use their profits to help produce more drugs like the goodwill fairies of love that they are deep down inside, studies have shown that only 14% of a given pharma companies budget goes into producing drugs. The rest, a whopping 86% is marketing and PROFIT. If you've ever had the pleasure of being wooed by a pharm rep into buying some new product, I'm sure they'll have demonstrated to you quite how much money they have to splash around.

    Another consequence of the market-demand way of producing pharmaceuticals is that those medicines which will reap more profit are considerably prioritised over those which will reap the greatest health benefit, worldwide and within the NHS.

    Take for example cancer medications (and this brings in a separate issue again) - the NHS is pretty much forced to fork out for them by the Daily Mail and other newspapers (and I mean that quite literally), no matter how effective they are, consequently pharmaceutical companies invest in these types of drugs over those which would have a greater health impact but aren't as highlighted in the media, and then charge extortionate prices for them - at enormous cost to the NHS with actually rather a minimum benefit to health overall.

    There's a reason why people continue to die of malaria and AIDS in the third world and that reason is £££

    I think this quote from Johann Hari who writes for the independant sums it up quite nicely:

    "The idea of ring-fencing life-saving medical knowledge so a few people can profit from it is one of the great grotesqueries of our age. We have to tear down this sick system – so the sick can live. Only then we can globalise the spirit of Jonas Salk, the great scientist who invented the polio vaccine, but refused to patent it, saying simply: "It would be like patenting the sun.""


    As the current situation stands moves to change the system (stemming from the USA as this is where most of our drugs come from) are essentially blocked by pharmaceutical companies' lobbying activities. By lobbying I mean paying the US government for political influence.
    Also at this time of economic downfall, investing in own-pharmaceutical produce is going to be less appealing than usual.

    Worth mentioning we have to bear in mind inter-dependance between different countries for pharmaceuticals which complicates the matter somewhat.


    Topics I generally wanted to raise were around:

    - Should we not try to produce some of our own pharmaceuticals without the costly help of the middle man perhaps in addition to those that are purchased from pharmaceutical companies?
    (Is it possible for us to emulate Cuba to some degree in this regard?)

    - Perhaps we should govern pharmaceutical companies in a way that maximises their useful produce and minimises their extortionate profits? Laws for pharma companies..

    - Should there be an organised international effort to boycott pharma companies, eg: have you heard of the pharmaceutical research prize fund idea (it's mentioned in one of the articles)

    - Have you heard of the patent pool idea for HIV medication in the third world?

    - The media's influence on what drugs we produce, make available, and how much we pay for them..

    etc

    I'm sure anyone who is interested can think of plenty to say

    Cuba

    Evil pharm companies

    I've only produced two links but there is plenty of information to be found a la google.
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    No comment = everyone agrees with me! :smug:






    ....:cry2:
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    This is incredibly interesting! How would we fund such a change, in your view, in light of recent cuts to public spending?
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    (Original post by BeanofJelly)
    ....
    Some interesting comments, and by and large I agree with you. Pharamaceutical companies have no interest in developing drugs for rare diseases, diseases affecting developing countries or diseases that they're already making a buck from from medication (e.g. a one-off cure for, say, hypertension, would make much less money than the status quo with regular daily medication)

    However, it's worth noting that the NHS is largely buffered from the cost of pharmaceuticals through institutions such as NICE (despite the media barrage from the Daily Mail etc) and is one of the reasons the NHS is more cost-efficient than any other western healthcare system. The Conservative moves to neuter NICE and create a special fund for buying expensive cancer drugs, however, seeks to undo some of this.
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    (Original post by Captain Crash)
    However, it's worth noting that the NHS is largely buffered from the cost of pharmaceuticals through institutions such as NICE (despite the media barrage from the Daily Mail etc) and is one of the reasons the NHS is more cost-efficient than any other western healthcare system. The Conservative moves to neuter NICE and create a special fund for buying expensive cancer drugs, however, seeks to undo some of this.
    In agreement with you there, imo the conservative plans for the financial/resource allocation side of the NHS are at best going to be counter-productive, at worst disastrous. How can each and every GP make financial decisions about patient care without bias and in a uniform way? The postcode lottery is bad enough as it is, I can see a distinct rise in healthcare inequality from this point onward.

    We're going to have more money spent on drug interventions with a minimal effect on quality and length of life, and less on staff and basic care of patients, particularly palliative care.

    It upsets me! Big pharma distresses me too!
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    I'm afraid I didn't read your entire post OP, so forgive me if you raised this point:


    Has anyone else ever wondered if the pharmaceutical companies suppress cures so that they can continue to profit from products which relieve symptoms?

    For instance: a company discovers a cure for the common cold, however it'd be more profitable to sell decongestants than to give people immunity...
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    Excellent post. The pharmaceutical companies are just like any other corporation in their profiteering and it would not surprise me if they do so at the expense of healthcare. They should not be afforded more respect because they contribute to the noble task of patient care.

    Should we not try to produce some of our own pharmaceuticals without the costly help of the middle man perhaps in addition to those that are purchased from pharmaceutical companies?
    (Is it possible for us to emulate Cuba to some degree in this regard?)
    OP, your suggestions are workable but it would require an overhaul of the economic/healthcare sector and would not be feasible in the current economic climate.

    Perhaps we should govern pharmaceutical companies in a way that maximises their useful produce and minimises their extortionate profits? Laws for pharma companies.
    Given that pharma companies do little and gain much, we could tax them more. The money gained could be reinvested in pharmacological research/healthcare making a nice monetary loop. Eventually, the pharma companies will not find it financially feasible and will probably sell their assets to the Government. This will serve the dual aim of getting rid of the pharma companies and reducing the deficit.

    - Should there be an organised international effort to boycott pharma companies, eg: have you heard of the pharmaceutical research prize fund idea (it's mentioned in one of the articles)
    I agree in principle with this but an international boycott would be nigh on impossible given the kind of clout these companies enjoy.

    The media's influence on what drugs we produce, make available, and how much we pay for them
    Drug marketing is another one of the lovely things being imported from America. Ultimately, the media campaign is driven by pharma companies keen on exploiting sickness for profit. It is fortunate that the UK has strict regulatory laws regarding drug adverterising which, for the most part, ensure patient safety is not compromised. In America the Food and Drug Administratinion body is subjected to alot of lobbying from politicians and pharma companies and is hardly objective in its assessment.

    Have you heard of the patent pool idea for HIV medication in the third world?
    The idea is ultimately a good one as the lack of patents should mean more people could receive HIV medication for less. It is baffling though that this was not thought sooner and HIV has been allowed to rampage through Africa for 2 decades.
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    Dude this is so true. Pharma companies are easily some of the most evil companies on earth. All our lecturers seem to say this, yet have not problem working for them...
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    :rolleyes:
    (Original post by Barden)
    I'm afraid I didn't read your entire post OP, so forgive me if you raised this point:


    Has anyone else ever wondered if the pharmaceutical companies suppress cures so that they can continue to profit from products which relieve symptoms?

    For instance: a company discovers a cure for the common cold, however it'd be more profitable to sell decongestants than to give people immunity...
    According to some of my lecturers, this is exactly what they do. Its not profitable to cure. Its profitable to cure symptoms though.
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    (Original post by blueblood18)
    OP, your suggestions are workable but it would require an overhaul of the economic/healthcare sector and would not be feasible in the current economic climate.
    No I know you are right. If we could wave a magic wand and change the system that would be great but nothing ever happens that quickly or decisively. Certainly not when noone has any money.


    (Original post by blueblood18)
    Given that pharma companies do little and gain much, we could tax them more. The money gained could be reinvested in pharmacological research/healthcare making a nice monetary loop. Eventually, the pharma companies will not find it financially feasible and will probably sell their assets to the Government. This will serve the dual aim of getting rid of the pharma companies and reducing the deficit.
    Well the problem is that a lot of our drugs are bought from abroad, which means we haven't the legislative power to do anything but pay for them. Alone we can only tax and legislate the pharmaceuticals produced in this country. I think that's why it has to be an international effort and possibly why not much has really been done to curb big pharma's wickedness.

    Still we could tax our own pharmaceutical companies considerably without reducing their productivity, I don't see why we shouldn't still do that.


    (Original post by blueblood18)
    Drug marketing is another one of the lovely things being imported from America. Ultimately, the media campaign is driven by pharma companies keen on exploiting sickness for profit. It is fortunate that the UK has strict regulatory laws regarding drug adverterising which, for the most part, ensure patient safety is not compromised. In America the Food and Drug Administratinion body is subjected to alot of lobbying from politicians and pharma companies and is hardly objective in its assessment.
    The problem is drug companies don't need to advertise their latest expensive cancer drugs (for example) because they're all over the media anyway. Patients demand these kind of drugs because they are desperate and because the mail tells them it's their right.

    (Original post by blueblood18)
    The idea is ultimately a good one as the lack of patents should mean more people could receive HIV medication for less. It is baffling though that this was not thought sooner and HIV has been allowed to rampage through Africa for 2 decades.
    Quite.


    What distresses me is that pharmaceutical companies don't seem to be on anybody's political agenda, despite the enormous injustice that the current system brings about, and the vast cost to the taxpayer. The NHS could do so much better with the money they spend lining the pockets of these vultures.
 
 
 
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