One of the most awkward features of our modern society is people discrimination based upon healthcare rights and free access to treatments. A large part of mankind suffers and dies due to foreseeable and preventable causes, for diseases perfectly curable by the modern medicine and pharmacology. Numbers for this injustice are terrifying: according to the last WHO report, in poor countries people die 10 times more than in industrialized nations, and this factor becomes 100 if one considers people between 0 and 10 yrs, and 300 if only newborns are taken into account. A complex problem, produced by a series of concomitant causes often acting together with a dramatic synergic effect. Among these factors, we enumerate for sure drug-related market strategies aiming mainly at achieving private financial profits, although this means to bypass and often trample down the human rights.
Not by chance last year in Italy (ISTAT 2010 data), during a heavy economical recession with a worrying loss in industrial production in all fields, pharmaceutical industry succeded, however, in getting an increase (+ 1.8%) in drug production, maintaining at a global level a developmental trend of almost 820 billions of dollars/yrs (IMS source).
Therefore, while in developing countries people die of malaria, AIDS, but also of diarrhea and malnutrition, in rich and wealthy western countries, through many advertising campaigns, novel health consciences are growing up together with a novel perception of “disease”.
Thanks to pharmaceutical research we will be forced no longer to give up our tennis hour or an important work meeting due to a trivial cold; we will be able to control symptoms of the so-called “menstrual syndrome”; we will be able to parade our virility beyond any imaginable natural limit set by biology and physiology.
It seems, therefore, so clear that, if on one side developing countries and their suffering are not a desirable target for pharmaceutical research and drug market, the other world part is becoming more and more conquered territory by stimulating new needs and consequently new market niches and opportunities.
Discovering and setting up a new drug is no doubt a long way, full of failures, that the patent system tries somehow to protect. Nevertheless, numbers seem to clearly point out that this system has become nowadays purely speculative, and we all with our health rights are bearing the cost of it. A consistent percentage of people is lacking in essential drugs, because they cost too much, and there is no research aiming at eradicate a series of diseases already defeated in western countries. For the remaining percentage of human beings, on the contrary, too many useless drugs, too many copy or duplicate drugs exist, and too many drugs addressed to amend injuries caused by wrong life styles (smoking, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse), that can be effectively prevented through suitable educational and preventional campaigns. We are victims of a society which is forcely pharmacocentric: it regards drugs as solutions for all problems, forgetting prevention and stimulating a lot of health expenditures with exclusive advantages for International pharmaceutical companies and their conniving central and local authorities.
Therefore, huge amounts of public money are stolen and can not be used for sustain and promote independent research plans. The latter, released from a need for achieving profits and addressed to restore a social equity and a human being-centered ethics based upon the human rights, might lead to globalization of life and health rights.
Professor of Organic Chemistry
Department of Chemistry and Drug Technology – University of Perugia
President of InfarmaZone onlus