Professional Advice / Opinions:

Letter to the Editor: An Answer to the Rising Drug Costs in 3rd World Nations

By: Dr. Olga Hilas

Foreword: Dr. Olga Hilas is an Associate Clinical Professor at Saint John’s University and a Clinical Pharmacy Manager in internal medicine and geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Hilas agreed to provide feedback to in response to Ebey’s article entitled, “Big Pharma vs. Developing Countries: Debating Generic Drugs and Intellectual Property Rights” (from Rho Chi Post Volume 1, Issue 1). We asked the readers to provide feedback on “how can we encourage R&D and allow drug manufacturers to recoup the costs, while providing low-cost, effective, and accessible medications to the third world nations?”

We sincerely thank Dr. Hilas for her contribution and thank Dr. Cassagnol for connecting us to Dr. Hilas. We look forward to hearing more from our readers.

There is no doubt that public health has greatly improved as a result of pharmaceutical company research and development. However, the desire for economic growth sometimes seems to overshadow the basic focus of improved health and prolonged life for all. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies are often perceived as capitalistic enterprises rather than humanitarian.

It is understandable that pharmaceutical companies sell their products at higher costs, while still under patent, for cumulative research and development costs. Their concern for the lack of international drug regulations and TRIPS enforcement is also reasonable based on the terms agreed upon years ago; yet, what are developing and poor nations suppose to do when infringement of certain rules and regulations means life or death to the majority of their citizens?

The answer to this issue is not a simple one nor will we be able to find a perfect solution; however, a compromise with a focus on global health and humanitarian obligations is possible and should be reached between the pharmaceutical companies and WTO.

Currently, there is an initiative underway that may be promising for ill people in impoverished countries. Certain pharmaceutical companies are planning on developing “branded generics” in these nations in order to prevent some of the income loss due to generic product manufacturer while the drug is still under patent. This solution can potentially provide more jobs, better access, fair pricing (for third world countries) and increased economic stability for all involved. Hopefully, the driving force behind this campaign will be public health and not private wealth.

If you are interested in this and other issues, you can go to: This website has a number of similar articles and great references for you to become more informed about public health topics around the world

Published by Rho Chi Post
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