About the Authors:
I was on saline, and my attending Doctor was monitoring. We got into a conversation, which veered around to costs of Medicine. He shared a heart-rending case with me. A patient – a poor labourer – was diagnosed with Dengue Fever, and was in a severe condition. This doctor told the entire family the expenses involved; and what best he could do : waive off his fees, and at best get a discount from the Pharmaceutical store. The family went away without treatment. Days later, after consulting several doctors, they approached him again. I was speechless, and thanked God, my Company and my Family for their support. But who, apart from God, was with that patient of Dengue Fever? He could not afford the cost of the treatment!
This is an extreme case. Lets look at another, this time hypothetical case. My total bills for this disease is likely to go upto 25000/- all told. For nearly the bottom 70% of India’s population, this is either one, or several months – or even an annual salary. I took a private room; subtract that – and you are still staring at 18000/- on drugs and related expenses. Again, several months to several years income. Billions of profit on side – and this on another. How many would have afforded this treatment we Middle Class Indians take for granted?
More to the point, in the entire brouhaha over IPRs, not one single Western Source, Medicines Sans Frontieres aside, has even looked at this side of the picture, a picture that is repeated across of a minimum of 105 of the nations of the Earth – perhaps nearer 150 nations, covering a humanity in excess of several Billion! By disallowing Generics, and granting long exclusive licences, you are not only stifling innovation (by ensuring superior, more cost-effective methods are not found), you are creating guaranteed gargantuan profits, you are creating a monopoly (where is the risk, pray tell? Research Risk? The profit numbers fully and finally debunk that, as do the sources of new drugs) and to top it all, you are denying cheap affordable medicines to the needy not only in your own country, but fighting to ensure the same in each and every country in the world.
I wish some of these hotshot MNC people would look into the tear-filled eye of the child who holds out a 100-Rs note to the pharmacist, and asks “how many will come in this?”. The Pharmacist replies, son you need more money for the full course. The son replies – give me what you will in this money. This is also a real story, played in front of my eyes. I wish these MNC guys are made to meet the people whose relatives died because the drugs were too expensive. But they wont; they will be too busy in their meetings. I feel double sad because I too, am a corporate guy – maybe at a lower level – but still a corporate guy…
Somewhere, somehow, someone will have to take the Pharmaceutical Trade into a phase of deep introspection… what I have seen these past 10 days has truly shaken me to the core of my being…
- Nuclear Tests – Sanctions, followed by a hasty volte-face years later as the potential of the market was realised
- Refusal to handover Cryogenic Technology, while evincing interest in India’s Nuclear Market!
- Attempt to Blockade India’s Agricultural Subsidies as China might gain, unmindful of the brutal and deleterious impact on Indian Farm Output and Employment, given that 80% of farmers are dependent on Subsidies to make it even out. Without that, all of these would be making a loss from their farms – and this has nothing to do with how effective out subsidy in reaching the farmers. Fact of the matter is that due to USA, our farmers would (might?) have died, If this sounds fanciful, look up farmer suicides in India
- Attempt to blockade India Retail FDI : with objections to the 30% sourcing clause from domestic industry
- The poor reputation of the USA as a defence supplier, with a penchant to withdraw or withhold critical parts and supplies in order to push forward their own agenda
But then how do you explain the scorching growth rate experienced in the market? How do you explain the applications that are being developed, and are increasingly in vogue? How do you explain the undeniable truth that internet and cloud based applications are adding value in countless homes and businesses across the length and breadth of India? How do you explain the pressure of the internet that is being experienced in markets as diverse as Consumer Durables to Handsets to Books? What about the various e-commerce sites, services and brands, some of whom might also be making money? Questions, too many questions… and too few answers.