Gilead greed kills
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Global Action Against Pharma Greed
We are not fooled: Global health activists confront pharmaceutical industry over excessive medicine prices
On 1st April 2016, activists across the world are protesting against the greed that blocks access to essential medicines. April Fools’ Day is an appropriate day to highlight both the extortionate price of medicines and the lack of transparency around research and development (R&D) costs.
The protest is coordinated by a coalition of over 25 health advocacy groups from 6 continents. Today’s demonstrations are being held outside offices of Pfizer, Gilead, Roche, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
We demand an end to:
- unfair medicine pricing
- corporate tax inversion
- deception about research and development costs.
Instead, we want all countries to use public health safeguards to ensure better access to medicines and a global R&D agreement that would ensure better innovation for medicines.
Globally, more than two billion people do not have regular access to the critical medicines they need. This is one in three of the world's population. More than half of these people live in Asia and Africa. Every year, 10 million people die from diseases because access to effective treatments is blocked by drug pricing.
One reason for this is the high cost of medicines under patent protection. Another is a refusal to see diseases like HIV in the context of poverty, malnutrition, and other material factors. There is no such thing as an epidemic that occurs independently of social problems around it.
The pharmaceutical industry justifies high prices by claiming R&D costs of over USD $2.9 billion per drug. But the independent campaign organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases (DNDi), recently reported that new medicines can be developed for less than USD 200 million, including the cost of failed drugs. Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, broke ranks with other companies to state industry’s claims around R&D costs are “one of the great myths of the industry.”
Drug companies spend more on marketing than on R&D – more than double in most cases. Early stages of medicine research are often funded by governments, charities, universities, and independent scientists – yet Big Pharma control the final price tag and gets the profits. Final pricing is unrelated to manufacturing cost. For example, it costs only USD 60 to 270 to produce a 12-week course for new hepatitis C medicines, yet these are priced at USD 84,000 in the US.
We urge governments to prioritise people’s health over pharmaceutical company profits. Governments, through the work of the United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) on Access to Medicines, have an historic opportunity to change the ways in which we pay for R&D and new medicines. There are viable alternatives to the current patent-based system before the HLP. These alternative models would both increase investment in R&D and lead to greater access to care.
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