Human lives above profits? US pharma companies eye pandemic boom

WION Web Team New Delhi May 12, 2020, 10.36 PM(IST)

Coronavirus Vaccine (representative image) Photograph:( AFP )

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The developed world is the worst-hit but, instead of cooperation, the race to a cure or a vaccine has become a competition

Existing drugs can get us through the worst phase of this pandemic but pharmaceutical companies may not deliver to everyone who needs them that's because they come with big price tags.

Also Read: US' CDC commits $3.6 million to India's COVID-19 fight

Big pharma makes drugs. Companies register patents that are a way to own the cure or the drug. The patent regime allows pharma companies to control the pricing which means, that everyone who needs medicine, may not get it.

Consider these examples, Sofos-buvir is a drug that is used to treat Hepatitis C. It is seen as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and it costs five dollars to make but, in America, its current list price is more than $18,000.

Similarly, Pir-feni costs 31 dollars for a 28-day treatment course. In the United States, it is priced at well over $9,600. Five dollars vs 18 thousand. 31 vs 9,600. Do you see the gap?

Those tracking the role of big pharma expect more of the same when a coronavirus cure does become available. Gerald Posner is an American journalist who has investigated big pharma. He believes that pharmaceutical giants see this pandemic as a once in a generation business opportunity.

The developed world is the worst-hit but, instead of cooperation, the race to a cure or a vaccine has become a competition.

Earlier this month, the European Union organised an online summit and around 40 countries took part. They have pledged more than eight billion dollars for a COVID-19 vaccine. Guess who stayed away? The United States. The US government believes American companies will get there first.

The American pharma giants that own or control several key patents and charge a bomb for any cure.

The competition is getting more fierce and big pharma wants to own the COVID-19 cure eradicating the virus cannot be an exclusive right of any one global player.

It's too big a job for a single company or a single country and companies, for once, must be forced to put human lives above profits.