This is cross posted from my other blog (heathcare/social marketing). As I have two very different audiences for these blogs, I want to know what the DP readers think.
I just read a Reuters article by Ben Herschler on the potential influence of the Gates Foundation on the pharma industry. A quick quotation to get you started:
"The billions of dollars thrown at global health problems by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are changing the game in drug discovery, posing big challenges to the world's top drugmakers, according to a report on Tuesday.
Pharmaceutical information group IMS Health Inc. said the emergence of megabuck philanthropy was both a threat and a collaboration opportunity for manufacturers.
"Pharma companies need to develop an explicit strategy to deal with this phenomenon," IMS said in its annual Intelligence.360 report on factors shaping the industry."
Now my day job is in healthcare and I've done a lot of work with the pharma industry over my career. I have helped with clinical research, written patient education materials and consulted on launch strategies and professional education efforts on new treatments.
Yes-- major philanthropic associations can do a lot to bolster the research efforts of pharma. Additionally, pharma gets good karma points for partnering with good causes. Nonetheless, one must always remember that in economics and business, nothing is ever free. Afterall, today's new era of empowered philanthropy, generous giving rarely means "without strings."
Just looking forward: How will pharma handle the philanthropist's demands for affordable prices on these new treatments that they have helped to bring to market? Afterall, right now most new treatments are priced based mostly on what the market will bear and competitor prices, rather than any real analytical plan to recoup costs plus a reasonable profit.
Or will philanthropic organizations require a "return on investment" when partnering. If so, what would this look like?
Not to leave out the megabuck philanthropies, I also have questions
for them. What happens when an ethical question comes up about the
research on a treatment? How will you ensure that your altruistic and
philanthropic missions are not compromised by a greedy and immoral few?
All it takes is one poorly designed study, one failure to disclose
financial relationships, or one questionable and tragic death to occur
in one of those studies to ruin all the good work being done.
We need only look back as far as 1933 and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to see how unethical research can ruin the trust of individuals who need care. Growing up and working in the south, I have seen the unfortunate legacy of this experiment. I have personally heard many African Americans voice suspicions and be doubtful of treatment offered to them. Some people going so far as to avoid doctors and hospitals at all costs and dying because they refused to seek treatment. I can only imagine what would happen if something similar happened in AIDS/HIV ravaged areas. It could completely undo all the work being done and send us tumbling toward the loss of multiple generations of people who really deserve better.