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The Therapy Sessions
Monday, June 07, 2004

AIDS and politics

One the Left's most irrational criticims of the pharmaceutical industry (and there are many) is that these companies put the medical needs of the world's poor below profits, and in the pursuit of the almightly dollar, they put most of the investment into helping the people most likely to pay them for it.

They spit this accusation out with derision, but it only reveals their own ignorance of basic business. A company's first responsibility is to stay in business: making money to pay the salaries of its employees, invest in the future and pay off the shareholders who have bankrolled it thusfar.

I once got into an argument with someone who insisted that the pharmaceutical companies have done nothing to solve the problem of River Blindness (it was fortunate that she chose that disease because she could have made her point better by citing malaria). She was wrong, of course. There is a perfectly good drug for River Blindness - Merck's Ivermectin - and Merck has done much more than any company should be expected to do to get it to the world's poor: they spend around $30 million a year making and distributing it in the Third World.

It hasn't solved the problem. Despite the fact that Ivermectin is very cheap (it is used in dog heartworm pills), River Blindness is still a major problem, particularly in West Africa. The problem isn't just the cost of the drug: massive education and distribution efforts are needed (River Blindness is usually the worst in areas with lots of precipitation, areas where roads are frequently impassable).

Not only is this not Merck's problem, it is not Merck's area of expertise: but in the strange logic of the Left, they are expected to deal with it.

It is their reward for finding a virtual cure to a debilitating disease.

To anyone who is rational, it is clear that either that public money or private charity should be called upon to deal with this problem.

But the Left is undeterred in its desire to be charitable with other people's money.

With great anger, I recently read what they are doing to Abbott.

Unlike Merck, Abbott Laboratories doesn't have a closet full of blockbuster drugs to keep it profitable. And more unfortunately, one of its key drugs is an AIDS drug.

In the mid-90's, I remember that the President and CEO of my company was criticized when my company invested little in AIDS research. This was the time when Merck was basking in a public relations triumph with their AIDS drug Crixivan. He said that AIDS research was becoming too political and their would be little money in it.

At the time, I thought that was short-sighted, but his cynicism has proven correct.

No company wants to have the next AIDS drug, largely becuase of stories like this:

AHF Spoofs Abbott's Spin on Huge Norvir Price Hike in New Ad Campaign

Parody Ads Blast Abbott for Expanded 'Greed' Over 400% Price Hike on Key AIDS Drug; Ads Will Appear in 'Windy City Times,' 'Frontiers Newsmagazine,' and 'Washington Blade'

LOS ANGELES, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the United States which operates clinics in the US, Africa and Central America, today unveiled a new print advertising campaign designed to call attention to and spoof Abbott Laboratories' recent public relations spin and damage control efforts regarding the drug giant's 400% price hike on its key AIDS drug, Norvir.

Poor Abbott. All the tried to do was make a drug that would save the world. They trusted that the Left would work with them in this worthy goal.

They were wrong.

The Left isn't interested in "saving the world;" they are interested in getting credit for saving the world.

With their own money, they are as stingy as misers. But they would gladly shower other people's money on the poor. How generous.

Private AIDS research has slowed quite a bit since the '90's, and many companies have pulled out altogether.

The Left still can't understand why.

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