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.)