[Ip-health] The perception that prescription drug industry is a partner to protect, rather than a seller with contrary interests

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Fri May 10 07:20:23 PDT 2019

Motivated by the #WHA72 negotiations on the transparency resolution, and
people frequently asking the question, "why would any government oppose



The perception that prescription drug industry is a partner to protect,
rather than a seller with contrary interests
May 10, 2019

One particularly corrosive form of corruption regarding pharmaceuticals
regards selling the notion that governments share common interests with
companies in blocking transparency and enabling excessive pricing, because
industry employment is seen as high wage, or high tech.

The “protect the good jobs” argument is typically soft on data or analysis.
The appeal is emotional, appealing to insecurity about the ability of
countries to compete in a rapidly changing world.

Once governments are “sold” on notion that interests are aligned, because
some domestic R&D or exports are involved, it becomes politically difficult
to do real economic analysis of the costs and benefits of what are
basically exploitative and anti-competitive practices.

Because better informed buyers won’t be such profitable marks, transparency
of the economics or actual medical value of goods and services becomes a
perceived threat to both the governments and the companies.

Over time, government policies become dogma. Officials can’t really justify
many policies, but they don’t have to. On the contrary, government
employees may forgo promotions or even lose their jobs if they question the
alliance with industry.

The notion that governments are partners with drug companies and not
regulators is reinforced over time, by people moving back and forth between
industry and government, and by massive public relations efforts, industry
funded academic echo chambers, and the dependence of charities, including
but not limited to patient groups, on donations from companies.

Once companies capture sufficient bureaucratic mind-share in a countries
like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the UK or the USA, there are efforts to
extend industry power to third countries, via foreign policy/trade policy,
multilateral institutions like WHO, and the EU.

The point is to neutralize possible threats to a preferred set of norms and
policies. One target is to block studies that consider alternatives, like
the delinkage of R&D incentives from prices. Another threat to be stopped
are policies, anywhere in the world, that would promote transparency.

All of this is pretty clear in the World Health Assembly (#WHA72)
negotiations on the transparency resolution. The resolution did not tell
anyone how to price products or services, it just proposed policies to end
asymmetries in access to information. But asymmetries are actually
important to industry.

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
U.S. Mobile +1.202.361.3040
U.S. office phone +1.202.332.2670
http://www.keionline.org <http://www.keionline.org/donate.html>

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