Fighting The Stigma Surrounding Big Pharma
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Fighting the Stigma Surrounding Big Pharma

When people think ‘big pharma’, they think ‘big money’ – and they’re not wrong. Egypt’s central bank just allocated $120 million to the importation of medical supplies for citizens due to recent shortages. Capital Crop Merchant banking recently invested $8.4 million to an Albanian pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. An additional £20 million pound project launched by Custom Pharmaceuticals, this week secured planning permission from Brighton and Hove City council to turn a derelict local bingo hall into a research, development and manufacturing centre.

It’s no surprise, with the extraordinary volume of funds trading places in the pharma market lends to stigma among popular opinion. When we hear that the industry is now valued at one trillion dollars, it’s easy to feel aggrieved. This is an incomprehensible figure. One trillion dollars? To put that into perspective. If you were to earn that amount, you would have to be earning $34 million. A day. For eighty years.

We think about the money rather than looking at the bigger picture. Pharmaceutical companies are researching, developing, manufacturing and distributing incredible innovative medical supplies that save thousands of lives every single day.

Let’s put it in perspective. This year, the unprecedented outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil and French Polynesia has already lead to a suspected 4,863 cases of microcephaly. Cases of Zika virus have already been reported in 35 South American territories and nations.

2014’s Ebola epidemic has required the allotment of $1.62 billion from the World Bank to help fight the devastating disease in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to name just a few. Ebola has already claimed the lives of 11,310 people, including over 500 healthcare workers. The disease brought together hundreds of nations and thousands of scientists to research and develop a cure for the epidemic.

There is now a greater demand than ever for first aid supplies. We have an astonishing power as a collective to fight and overcome the threat of global epidemics. The widespread outbreak of AIDS in the 1980’s led to mass hysteria.

We knew so little about the disease that only led to greater confusion and fear. Now, in 2016 we know more than ever about ways to treat sufferers of HIV and AIDS – and whilst it remains a truly horrific disease affecting 36.9 million people worldwide we are making incredible strides to understanding and beating the disease.

This simply cannot happen without the essential work of pharmaceuticals and the brilliant scientists and researchers they employ.

Some scientists believe that perhaps the greatest threat facing us in this day and age is the surge in antibiotic resistant bacteria. Alexander Fleming - the developer of the world’s first antibiotic, Penicillin, is labelled by some as the greatest medical discovery in history. Others give the title to Edward Jenner, the pioneer behind the world’s first vaccine. Jenner’s smallpox vaccine eventually led to the international eradication of the smallpox virus in 1979.

To this day it is believed that only four samples of the virus remain. Jenner is believed to have saved more lives than any other person in history with his medical discovery. Both men were undoubtedly incredible scientists, years ahead of their time. Throughout their lives and the subsequent years that have followed, modern scientists have been perfecting and modifying the medicines to fight a seemingly infinite number of strains and other infectious diseases.

But this leads us into a time where viruses such as MRSA and Gonorrhoea and now entirely resistant to benzyl penicillin, the medicine once used to treat them. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, in a recent report produced from findings over an 18 month investigation – found that antibiotic resistant bacteria might kill over 10 million people a year by 2050. Currently 50,000 people die a year from infections that are completely untreatable through the medicines once used. The report can be read further here.

Pharmaceuticals run like any other business, and operate, like any other business to generate revenue. The difference is, that some businesses solely operate for that purpose. Whereas big pharma organisations develop lifesaving products to combat the greatest medical threats we’ve ever faced. We need to drop the stigma behind the figures and appreciate the unrivalled work accomplished through pharmaceutical research.


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