Pharma Co’s Don’t All Get Credit for Curing Polio!

There’s nothing quite like seeing pharma whining about the bad rap it gets.

Check out this editorial by Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, published in BBC News: ‘What have drugs companies done for us?’

…People seem to take for granted the antibiotics that cure infection, the anti-ulcer pills that prevent the need for stomach operations and the wide range of medicines that reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Finding new medicines is painstaking work; investigation into 5,000 compounds is likely to yield just one successful medicine, and the journey from first discovery to bringing a medicine to market takes between 10 and 12 years, at an estimated cost of £500m.

At the core of our industry are the unsung heroes who carry out this work – the scientists and researchers who very strongly believe they are on a mission to address human disease.

I would be astonished if they do not go into work everyday being motivated by the desire to bring cures to mankind….

Not wanting to oversell his point, Dr. Barker admits the industry has not been without its troubles:

Yes, along with other industries we have done some things wrong, but we have also done some things spectacularly right.

They’ve “done some things wrong”? Can anyone think of an industry with a worse record of wrongdoing? Sleezy advertising. Ghostwriting. ‘Evergreening.’ Inventing diseases. Disregard for the safety of human research subjects. It’s not at all clear that that stuff just disappears, even when we acknowledge the industry’s admittedly-important contributions. Of course, not every company is guilty of all of those offenses. But then, they don’t all get credit for curing polio, either.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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