A Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry

by Scott Baradell | PR and Pop Culture

A Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Here’s your thought for the day:

The pharmaceutical industry has many issues. The biggest issue, however, is that pharma’s ultimate goal is not to cure illness and disease, but to make money.

According to free-market fundamentalism, it’s OK that pharma acts in its self-interest, because if everybody acts in their self-interest, the public interest will be served through the invisible hand of capitalism.

Unfortunately, the invisible hand — like any other intellectual construct — doesn’t always work. For example, the public’s interest in this case would be for pharma to focus its research dollars on curing illness and disease. However, if pharma actually does cure illness and disease, it doesn’t make more money — it goes out of business.

Pharma makes the most money by treating chronic illnesses and diseases that never go away. The more ailments we have, the better.

And that’s where they put their R&D dollars. Make sense?

Free-market fundamentalists are like religious fundamentalists. They like to stick to their simple, comforting beliefs rather than face facts — principally, that life is complex and that the solutions to our problems therefore also require some level of complex thinking.

Which means that even though public policy proposals like national health care plans and increased public funding for research will always be imperfect (and to some a “waste of taxpayer dollars”), they are better choices than abdicating our collective responsibility to the “free market.”

Oh — and why did we label this post “A Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry”? Because it’s not their fault; it’s ours.

(If this topic interests you, this post contains some suggested viewing.)

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2 thoughts on “A Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry

  1. Guido Casper

    I agree on the part of avoiding free-market fundamentalists. However the most important public duties for sure is controlling and fighting monopolies and cartels (ENSURING free markets). And in this particular case, don’t you think that if the pharma industrie wouldn’t be that cartel-like and the entry barriers wouldn’t be that high, there would be plenty of entrepeneurs happily willing to market curing treatments instead of “chronic treatments” and making a lot of money along the road. What you are describing is a LACK of free market. Ask the music industrie for their reasons to defend its old distribution channnels by all means. I don’t feel like defending the pharma industrie.

  2. SB


    There’s definitely truth in what you say. If we hadn’t allowed some of our corporations (in pharma and other industries) to get so big and powerful, things would be a lot different. But technically, I don’t see a monopoly (maybe an oligarchy), and I don’t think a cartel can be proven. So what we have is a group of very large companies that are acting within our laws, from what I can tell. And in a world of globalization, I think our corporate execs and our politicians would argue that the creation of mega-corps is necessary for U.S. based companies to compete (read: dominate) on the world stage.

    So it’s a tricky issue. I think the easiest public policy remedy is to increase the public sector’s counterinfluence. But if you have a specific public policy suggestion, I definitely am open to hearing it. I’m more interest in solving the problem than advancing one ideology or another.