The best way to be sure a debate is lost is to accept it within the framework provided. So, with that being said, the debate about Big Pharma is another example of beginning a discussion back on one’s heels and at an immediate disadvantage. Without a doubt, hearing or reading the words “Big Pharma” conjures up the image of an enormous, greedy and wildly profitable industry prospering and expanding as it lays waste to the public and extinguishes its competition.
This is the inherent context in which any public conversation about Big Pharma begins. Big Pharma reaps scandalous profits while charging the public inflated prices for essential medications. Moreover, the innovations and discoveries within the industry are often sponsored by government research grants funded by the taxpayers.
In the wake of the now receding COVID-19 pandemic, many observers have hopefully had the occasion to reexamine the inherently negative premise of Big Pharma. No honest and informed observer can come to any other conclusion than were it not for the genius, inventiveness, skill and prowess embedded within Big Pharma, the pandemic would have accelerated, with countless millions of us having by now fallen ill, suffered gravely and died.
A recounting of these facts in this most recent triumph of our biomedical industry highlights this and the vital role they play in society. Shortly after Chinese released the DNA sequence of the COVID-19 virus, both Pfizer and Moderna had developed a novel mRNA vaccine approach. Within the context of former President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, the government became a partner in this novel and unprecedented vaccine and hastened its development, production and distribution to Americans. Not a single American citizen paid a penny out of pocket to receive these extraordinary vaccines, and for the first time in human history, a pandemic that gripped the entirety of humankind now has been largely contained within populations that have been vaccinated. Imagine how many lives would have been saved had the Chinese government released the DNA sequence earlier.
Despite this monstruous effort by Big Pharma, there appears to be no need to be encumbered by the facts; recently, the European Union announced plans to sue Big Pharma member AstraZeneca because of its delay in vaccine dissemination. The company had committed to deliver 300 million vaccines within the first six months of 2021, but in fact, only 100 million vaccines were administered. A careful parsing of the facts makes it clear that the problem was not the pharmaceutical company itself but instead its partners at Oxford University. There, scientists within the Jenner Institute wanted to themselves produce the vaccine and make it available at cost. Apparently, the issue that beset the scientists was that the pharmaceutical company might profit from the vaccine, and that concern created the stumbles that delayed the vaccine’s availability, even as the third COVID-19 wave beset Europe.
Likewise, here in America, it has been seriously proposed that the intellectual property the companies hold for their vaccine development should be stripped away. This is in the name of more rapid distribution to developing nations. Private property is the central pavilion of a free society, and its removal by force of law places our government in line with the People’s Republic of China as they brazenly steal the technology of private companies that sell their products to the Chinese people.
Recently, we have heard of an astounding new development in cancer care wherein patients with lung cancer and a particular genetic marker may be successfully treated with a new medication. This on top of the burgeoning immunotherapy that has already revolutionized the care of those afflicted with lung cancer, which, not so long ago, carried the stigma of certain imminent death. Imagine persuading the woman whose husband has advanced lung malignancy that this new medicine’s manufacturer is her enemy.
What medicines do you or your spouse or your parents take that were not developed in the United States by Big Pharma? If we choose to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, we are simply less prosperous. If we choose to vilify and undermine our pharmaceutical industry, we stand to lose far more than just our prosperity.