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Friday, December 02, 2005

The Drug Companies and Africa

The Drug Companies and Africa

In the Republic of Comoro there are over 26 million people suffering from Aids. The representatives to Comoro have asked the U.S. drug companies to lower their prices in order to help save their country and the whole of Africa in general. The U.S. drug companies will only lower prices if African citizens will honor U.S. patient laws. As of right now it cost a drug in Norway $10, when the same one in Burundi (country of Africa) it cost $90. That may sound somewhat reasonable to American citizens (definitely NOT me but that not the point right now), but a cop in Kenya only makes $43 a month. Something that cost $4 a unit from a U.S. drug company would only costs 40 cents from Pakistan. Congress has been asked to forgive their debt to get them to follow U.S. patients.
American companies hold the patients to all the drugs that Aid’s victims need. African’s can’t afford to buy them at the price being sold to them by U.S. companies. Unless they want to starve to death, they have no choice but to get it from other places and violate patient laws. Several people call is profit maximization because it’s retail mark up. Other countries get pharmacy discounts and tax breaks, but Africa gets a retail mark up always 3 times as big as any other country. African gets over $120 million in free drugs a year. They get eye medicine and throat drops, but the country isn’t dying of eye inflection or a cold. It was quoted a few months ago from one of the U.S. ambassador to Africa that "there is more money in giving a white guy an erection than in curing a black man of Aids." The U.S. companies would argue that even if they made it free to all African citizens they aren’t sure it would even get to them. That the government is so corrupt that the drugs would be sold to outside sources and not to its own citizens. The also argue that if they gave free drugs to all of Africa it would make no difference. The regimen of pills is very complicated. They require that the person take a 20-milligram pill 3 times a day everyday, at specific times. The "X-factor" is that we can’t be sure how long they will live." Also they can’t be sure that the citizens even know how to tell time, or have wrist watches to know when to take the pills. The lost that U.S. companies would suffer from giving free drugs to all of African is said to be something greater than the marginal cost of producing the medicine. However, it would not be harmful to drug companies because they earn it all back in sales and tax incentives from other countries. If Africa doesn’t start to obey U.S. patient laws they will put them on a Watch List. This can lead to trade sanctions, which would end all trade to the country.
One proposed solution has been that the export-import bank give over $1 billion in loans to be dispersed in $10,000 increments over time in order to finance medical purchases and ONLY medical purchases. This would allow for approval from Congress because you don’t need approval from Congress on loans $10,000 or less.
Now the thought I have is how is not something would want to do? Why would we not want to support another country to being more healthy and productive? Would this not keep them from violating U.S. patients? I think we should support the well being of a country by any means possible… only I don’t want to have to pay for it. Yes I said it. I do NOT want to pay for it. I don’t want to be taxed, but I would agree to helping them. Why is there no way to help them out with out passing the "bulk of the bill" on us? Why not instead tax the drug companies? They earn their loss back from the profit of other mass sales. Why not make them actually pay for it? Or why not raise the import-export tax on drugs to and from other countries and use that to pay for it? I think we could do it. I think we could find a way to not put the entire burden on the taxpayers. Fine make me pay for it a little bit, but not all of it. I’m willing to save others because I believe that in the long run they will be productive. Their country will regain its ability to produce and sustain its people.

This idea came from a TV show called The West Wing, Season 2. The situation above is actually from the show. I wanted you to think of it as real and as a true possibility…. Because its not that far off from the truth. Africa does not enforce U.S. patient laws. The buy generic drugs from Pakistan for 40 cents because they need to. Africa is slowly dying. The proposed solution is one that was suggested about a year ago, and was laughed at. I think something needs to be done. I think the U.S., as a super power, needs to help its fellow countries when we can. If it will help Africa become a more developed and productive country, why not? Why not help them become a more successful country? Anyway that’s what I wanted you all to think about.

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