The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
It happens periodically at conferences and parties.
A researcher who works for the government or a university says something like this with a look of disappointment:
"Oh, you work for a research company."
There is a sense among government employees and academics (and even doctors) that people who work for pharmaceutical companies are paid to do pseudo-research, where the main motive is profit and not "discovery."
I've never understood the sentiment.
Yes, if a drug doesn't stand a chance of making money, we won't work on it. The prestige of finding a wonderful malaria drug won't pay the salaries of thousands of workers and decades of effort needed to make it a reality.
For that reason, our research is concentrated on "rich people's diseases:" cardiovascular problems, cancer, osteoporosis, depression....
But the research and the therapies are very real.
Why the bias against the fact the that we try to make a living? Don't doctors do the same thing?
Doctors, of course, should know better: if it wasn't for all the miracle pills provided by the greedy pharmaceutical industry, they would still be bleeding people with leeches.
The government researcher bias is more complex: they apparently feel that profit is demeaning and unsavory.
My salary is paid as result of a contractual obligation. Somebody buys the drugs that my company makes. They may grumble about the price (doesn't everyone?), but the transaction is entirely voluntary: they can keep their money and do without the drug, if they wish.
The salary of a government researcher is entirely paid by coercion, and the salary of an academic researcher largely is paid with government funds.
That money has been taken out of my pocket, and if I resist paying it, I will be sent to jail.
What nobility is there in that?
I'm not saying that publicly funded research is bad; I don't feel that way.
I'm just saying that this bias is completely unjustified.