Friday, March 09, 2007
What's wrong with this picture?
OK, I know I am going to run afoul of the free-market capitalists out there (and I suspect that is most Americans, perhaps most of the world).
But I was just reading an article about Victoria Hale and her non-profit pharmaceutical company known as the Institute for OneWorld Health.
The purpose of her company is to produce drugs for treatable diseases in developing countries. Drugs that are viewed by Big Pharma as not having much profit potential. Now let me disarm the critics first by acknowledging that this company was started by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (with Bill the icon of capitalism). And second let me note that the business model, as it were, seems to rely on gaining access to the drug R&D as a tax break for Big Pharma.
But could we not focus for the moment on the mechanics? Can we step back just a bit and see what is wrong with this picture? For one minute, drop your business guard, let go of your cultural indoctrination, and ask yourself if this represents your priorities.
We've created a world where Big Pharma decides what drugs to manufacture not based on how many lives can be potentially saved, but on how much money can be made.
Oh, I can already hear you out there. "Of course they do, how do you expect them to pay for the R&D". "Come on -- be a realist, what do you expect them to do?"
Well, for one I am certainly happy to read about Victoria Hale. But as "good" as that news is, it actually made me pause even more. Scraps off the table, still in their financial interest, to save lives. Of course this story repeats itself endlessly. I made reference before to the book and movie "The Constant Gardener" which is an intriguing LeCarre plotline and message that just ends up under your skin (at least it did mine).
So what? What do I suggest?
I really don't know. This problem, like the world itself, is so complex and intertwined.
But I think the first step to address this problem, like the world itself, is to awaken to the underlying reality. And then ask ourselves, given this realization, what intentions should we set for ourselves, and how will those scale in the world at large.
And everyone's answer will be different. I'll offer my thanks to Victoria Hale for looking inward when confronted by the reality that she saw, and taking action to help save lives. That is a noble purpose.