Drug Firms Pass On £25bn Fines To Patients
A shocking new study has revealed that the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have been fined in excess of USD$35.7 (£25bn) in the US alone over the last 25 years, for breaking the law to boost sales and profits.
Just to put the fines into perspective, £25bn is enough to pay for all the cancer drugs used by NHS England for 16 years!
pharmaceutical companies can treat fines like any other business cost and pass them on to customers by charging higher pricesUltimately patients are paying the price for this, as a lack of regulations mean that pharmaceutical companies can treat fines like any other business cost and pass them on to customers by charging higher prices. This is particularly easy to do for any drugs where patents give the drug companies a monopoly over supply, a situation affecting many cancer drugs.
The study by Public Citizen looked at pharmaceutical company fines over the last 25 years. Fines were imposed for a range of illegal practices, including:
- Overcharging government health programs
- Unlawful promotion
- Monopoly practices
- Concealing data
- Poor manufacturing practices
- Environmental violations
- Financial violations
- Illegal distribution
The growing scale of these fines clearly indicates that they have failed to act as a deterrent and that illegal activity is still an ongoing problem within the industry. The impact for patients is higher prices for medicines and sometimes treatments being offered that are either not not safe or not as effective as alternatives that may be available.
The imposition of these fines has done little to dent the ever increasing revenues and profits generated by the pharmaceutical industry, so shareholders are certainly not picking up the tab. The following chart shows the sales and profit margins of the Health Technology sector, which is largely made up of pharmaceutical companies. The biggest profit margins in this sector are being made by the pharmaceutical giants Pfizer (27.6%), Merck & Co (25.2%) and Johnson & Johnson (24.5%).
Meanwhile, prices for many common medicines, including cancer drugs, have been rising at alarming rates.
For many years now, the pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable in the world and the latest data from 2015 shows that it still has a commanding lead over all other major industries. This is sickening news for cancer patients, past, present and future when the repercussion of higher profit margins is reduced access to medicines, leading to increased loss of life.
Is this our world now? A world where we make the biggest profits from human suffering? A world where we have the means to save lives but would rather let people die than sacrifice bigger profits?
The explosion of illegal activity and profiteering within the pharmaceutical industry in the last 10 years, is part of a much bigger story about a booming industry set on achieving its ambitious aims at any cost, despite that fact that the consumer cost of this excess is often someone’s life.
The industry is clearly out of control and we desperately need fundamental market reforms to stop patients with life-threatening diseases like cancer being commercially exploited. The public has done enough to help – it’s now time for politicians to step up to the plate and show some responsibility.
For the love God – bring back some humanity.
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