Sunday, September 18, 2005

But Who Will Speak For Poor Pharma?

It appears the British pharmaceutical industry has acquired its very own Lorax.

The British Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is launching an inquiry into the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), a voluntary agreement between the government and the British pharmaceutical industry, which caps drug companies' annual profits from branded drug sales to the NHS.

According to the Beeb,
The OFT inquiry is meant to check whether safe and effective branded prescription medicines are being provided at reasonable prices.
Well, that seems like a commendable activity for an Office of Fair Trading to get up to, doesn't it? Nice to think that government regulatory agencies are actually trying to regulate the safety and affordability of citizens' life necessities?

Mm, not so much. In the event, the inquiry will investigate the PPRS's progress toward its 'core aims, including the promotion of a strong pharmaceutical industry capable of research and development that can lead to new and improved medicines.'

The Chairman of the OFT makes pretty clear where its priorities lie:
"We want to examine whether the PPRS works well to ensure that pharmaceuticals markets meet the needs of patients by offering adequate rewards to pharmaceutical companies for developing new and useful drugs, while providing the taxpayer with value for money."
OK, good. So British taxpayers are footing the bill for a government inquiry into whether a voluntary agreement negotiated by the pharmaceutical industry is perhaps over-harshly restricting that industry's ability to charge them top dollar for medicine.

Because if there's one thing you can say about drug companies, it's that they're altruistic to fault. Just constantly entering into unprofitable trade agreements on a voluntary basis, out of the goodness of their civic-spirited hearts. Somebody please stop Pfizer from giving me the shirt off its back, lest it catch cold on its way to the bank.

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