Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), has posted a debate with respect as to how drug companies could be persuaded to use technology to battle medical needs globally. In mind, particularly, are under-developed nations with treatable conditions such as malaria.
The article by William Schulz, “Providing Medicines for the Poor,” offers suggestions such as removing patents or creating a “Health Impact Fund” which would essentially repay drug companies for their efforts.
Who are the people debating the problem?
Thomas W. Pogge is a philosophy professor at Yale. He believes we should create a fund to support the drug companies but essentially take away the independence of action. In other words, the treatment takes precedence.
On the other side of the debate is Philip Heger, managing director of international affairs at Pfizer who says the current system as it stands can do the job. (Of course it hasn’t)
Actually it seems a little “liberal versus conservative” to me.
What is the answer? Who has the answer? Is there an answer?
There is an answer that I have in chapter one, page one of my Business 101 freshman college business course — “social responsibilities.”
Our economy doesn’t work when businesses aren’t interested in improving the country or in this case, the world. For a society to work there must be an element of social responsibility by its businesses.
Take an oil company with no social conscience. (Yes, like today) They will milk society for every dime they can get until something dreadful stops the gravy train like a recession. Meanwhile however, they have made billions. Long-term they run the risk of helping to create a total collapse. Then, they have no market.
What about the oil company with a social conscience? They protect society by modifying prices. They maintain a profit; they look for ways to increase supply to further reduce price and they employ as many as possible. You ask, “Isn’t that self-defeating?”
A society who is not over-taxed in an area such as fuel will thrive. They will build more houses and buildings and planes and ships all of which use fuel.
How does this relate to the issue of medicines?
A drug company that truly understood social responsibilities would find ways to make drugs cheaper so that they were the company of choice. Taking that profit, they would begin by simply manufacturing more of basic drugs that knock out simple illnesses. This would strengthen countries and create more paying markets.
Business has a responsibility to make a profit but they have failed at the very simple concept that is taught to first-year business students: social responsibility.
This topic, currently being debated by an educator and a corporate mouthpiece with an agenda has no more chance of being improved upon than any other where the intent of business does not include improvement of the human condition.