Pharmaceutical companies are some of the biggest businesses in the world. In 2021 alone, Novartis made over $24 billion in net income. The top three most profitable companies all made over $20 billion that year.
Money is power in this world, and these companies have a lot of it. Big Pharma regulations exist to hold these global companies accountable and from taking over the market in every country. Without regulations, pharmaceutical companies could hold entire countries hostage through restricted drug access.
Here are seven reasons why we need Big Pharma regulations in Fiji and elsewhere.
1. They’re a Big Influence on the Medical Sector
Pharmaceutical companies have a huge influence on the kind of medical care a country can provide. They control the medications the hospitals use and what patients can access from pharmacies.
It’s not uncommon to see an insurance company change up what kind of medications they cover due to changes in pricing and access. In many cases, physicians will prescribe drugs knowing that your insurance will only approve the generic variety.
In Fiji, Aspen Medical signed a million-dollar contract and has failed to fulfil it. Their failures have led to unnecessary deaths due to insufficient healthcare services in the region.
2. They Set Drug Prices
The pharmaceutical industry is singlehandedly responsible for developing, producing, and marketing various drugs and medications. Although the markets they sell in do factor into pricing, the company itself is the one that sets them.
Unfortunately, there are many medications that are priced way over the cost of production.
For example, a vial of insulin can run a diabetic for about $300 in the United States. In contrast, creating that vial costs about $10. Even taking into account marketing, distribution, and other factors, it’s still a huge markup.
That means diabetics often struggle to survive in countries without health insurance. The same goes for any other life-saving medications that cost too much for most people to afford.
3. Promote Orphan Drugs
The promotion of orphan drugs is one area where regulations both help and hurt the average citizen.
Pharmaceutical companies often receive specific consideration from the FDA and encouragement to develop treatments for rare diseases. This is helpful because there otherwise wouldn’t be a huge incentive to develop and produce these less-used drugs.
However, it also gives Big Pharma the freedom to charge whatever they want for these medications, as there isn’t a market for them. They create the market at whatever price they deem fit. It’s not uncommon for them to cost significantly more than non-orphan drugs.
In addition, certain countries will have higher annual treatment costs for those drugs than others.
4. More Substantial Drug Trials
One problem with pharmaceutical companies is that they want a quick profit. The top companies all serve as global competition that wants to stand out from the others. What this means is that some drugs end up FDA-approved without substantial research.
For example, the FDA approved the Makena drug in 2011. It was meant to prevent preterm births. However, a study in 2017 found that it wasn’t any better than older, more affordable generic alternatives.
Even in the recent pandemic, there were a number of different COVID vaccine options available. While some went on to become the standard, others were questioned due to their potential side effects. In particular, the CDC expressed a preference for the Pfizer and Moderna shots over other alternatives.
5. Less Corruption
Government regulation in any industry is meant to provide safer standards and prevent corruption. Big Pharma regulations must lead to more affordable medical care as well as hold these companies accountable for their actions. After all, these companies get a steady stream of tax money intended for research and development.
Southeast Asia is considered by industry insiders to be the “pharmaceutical sweet spot.” A large population and lack of medical solutions equal opportunity.
However, many people can only afford generic drugs that are less safe and have lower standards. Hospital facilities are also not funded or managed well.
6. It Encourages People to Pay for Medication
A major drawback of giving too much power to pharmaceutical companies is that people can’t afford their medications.
People may end up paying hundreds of dollars a month for the drugs they need to survive. As such, they often turn to generic drugs that are much more affordable but can have different formulations. There are also some companies that sell both the brand-name drug and the generic version.
What happens next is that people may skip doses to make their medications last longer. Others travel to neighbouring countries where their prescription drugs are much more affordable.
For example, United States citizens will often travel north to Canada or south to Mexico just to save money on their medicine.
7. Too Many Similar Drugs
One of the main purposes of Big Pharma is to study and develop new drugs for a variety of illnesses. The reality is that the biggest-selling products often use compounds discovered decades ago. Some of these products were also created by third parties.
Many medications end up accomplishing the same goals, despite coming from different pharmaceutical companies.
The flip side of this is that branded drug manufacturers prevent generic competition. They make agreements with these companies to delay the launch of their version of the drug, allowing a length exclusivity period.
Get Updates on Big Pharma Regulations
Big Pharma regulations are about more than just saving money on your prescriptions. They’re a necessity to prevent too much influence on the medical sector as well as limit the increase in unsafe generics. They’ll also help shed more light on the failures of these companies and where they need to improve.
Aspen Medical already failed Fiji during the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. Contact us if you want to stay updated on this problem and learn more about the next steps.