[Ip-health] Pfizer is 'misleading MPs' with 'pharma myth' ads in Westminster, according to MSF

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed Feb 10 03:45:57 PST 2016

Pfizer in the UK decided recently to put up some ads in Westminster tube
station in London, 'educating' people - especially passing British MPs - on
what it takes to make a medicine. MSF and allies decided to highlight some
of Pfizer's #pharmamyths (as we've coined them!) and have a little fun with
them; The Independent in the UK has now picked it up.

I recommend you take a look through the story link to get the best sense of
what they've done, but here's the text below.

Also, here is MSF's statement debunking some of Pfizer's #pharmamyths:

i100 (The Independent)
Pfizer is 'misleading MPs' with 'pharma myth' ads in Westminster, according
to a leading medical charity
Posted 2 hours ago by Bethan McKernan in news

Pharma giant Pfizer has been distributing misleading ads about drug
development costs at Westminster Tube station in an effort to sway both the
public and MPs, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has claimed.

The large ads near Parliament claim, among other things, that it costs £1bn
in research and development to make a new medicine.

They appear to be aimed at "convincing the public and MPs who pass through
the station that the high prices pharmaceutical companies charge for
medicines are justified," the charity said in a statement.

The large posters were first spotted by activists, who stickered over the
ads with what they claimed are "pharma myth" busting facts.

According to MSF, the drugs can actually be manufactured for as little as

And they say that while testing new drugs may take 12 years, a large
portion of the research is done by universities, using public money.

MSF have now created their own version, which they say are "corrected

Dr Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of MSF's Access Campaign, said in
a statement:

    Companies like Pfizer who claim they’re in the business of [research
and development] are really only buying smaller companies with blockbuster
drugs to make profit, while shutting their R&D facilities – like the
anti-infective R&D unit in the UK – and ignoring the development of drugs
we really need.

    Pfizer makes nearly £12 million a day in sales off the pneumonia
vaccine alone, yet continue to price the vaccine out of reach for many
developing countries, where almost a million kids die from the disease
every year.

i100 contacted Pfizer UK for comment on MSF's claims. A spokesperson said
that "effective immunisation programmes require a multifaceted approach":

    Pfizer works with many partners globally including Gavi, the Vaccines
Alliance, UNICEF, and others, to provide access to our vaccines, including
providing Prevenar 13 [pneumonia vaccine] to the world’s poorest countries
at the lowest price available.

    We also provide Prevenar 13 for use in humanitarian settings where
alternate pathways to access do not currently exist.

There has been increased public debate about drug pricing and
monopolisation since the outcry over "most hated man on the internet"
Martin Shkreli hiking up the price of an HIV drug by 4,000 per cent last

The issue has become a hot-button topic in the US presidential election.

*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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