Drug Research: Companies spend a tiny fraction on the poor and the developing world
Any of you who desperately cling to the hope that the pharmaceutical industry is there for the benefit of mankind need to look at the latest statistics for global health research.
While health research spending is rising by about $10bn (£5.5bn) every year, virtually none of it is going towards the diseases that afflict the poor and the developing world.
In 2003 – the most recent year when figures were available – around $129bn (£72bn) was spent on health research, but less than 7 per cent went on communicable diseases.
The rest, which came from drug companies and government agencies, concentrated on the ‘lifestyle’ diseases of the West.
The Global Forum for Health research reckons that the remainder came from philanthropic and non-profit organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
If so, that means that drug companies spend almost nothing every year on diseases of the developing world and of the poor – those sectors where they can’t get a handsome return.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2006; 333: 936).E-news broadcast 9 November 2006 No.308