Global Pharmaceuticals

I work in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.  We handle hundreds of different drugs every day yet we are still limited by the hospital’s ‘formulary’.  This is a list of drugs the hospital has agreed to purchase and allow physicians and caregivers to prescribe and administer during a patient’s stay.  Protocols are written for the physicians to follow based on a patient’s diagnosis.  So, let’s say you have pneumonia.  Well, the doctor follows the protocol and prescribes the particular drug that our hospital has decided is the best IV antibiotic for treating pneumonia.  I am not witness to the marketing or subsequent acquisition of these medications.   How is the decision made and what is the basis: cost vs. effectiveness?  My little world in this metropolitan hospital is just a grain of salt compared to the global market.

According to the World Health Organization the global pharmaceuticals market is worth approximately $400 billion dollars.  How are they making such incredible amounts when populations who need the drugs the most in developing countries and can’t afford them?  Where is that money coming from?  Pharmaceutical companies are generally broken down into three divisions: marketing, research and development, and production.  Over fifty percent of outgoing money is spent on marketing.  Why not the research and development?

Most companies are outsourcing the production of the drugs and moving overseas to international locales in an attempt to control overhead.  Of course employment is provided for the local community but I wonder if the wages and terms of employment fair.  Inda and Rosaldo refer to globalization as a process of maximizing capital.  Well, the drug companies try to portray an image of humanity but the more I investigate I find it still is the almighty dollar driving the production and marketing of each drug.

I happened upon a blog written by a marketing consultant for drug companies.  He writes that China is an up and coming powerhouse for drug production. China is working on introducing many of its ancient medicinal resources into a modern pill or oral solution.  Check out this link with photos of the pharmaceutical’s new headquarters.  A little over the top, eh?

A few of the pharmaceuticals provide free drugs to developing countries in an effort to control or erradicate a particular disease.  Smith Kline Beecham has given millions of dollars in drugs in an effort to erradicate lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis).  This disease is indeed considered erradicated in Fiji.  But is it enough?  I have only begun my investigation into the global drug market but I’m finding it to be a lot to wade through.  I will need to look into patents, lack of research and corporate control to say the least as I continue my research.


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