Big Pharma / THE FACTS
Prescription for profit
Big Pharma’s profit margins are the highest of any industry, beating even the widely perceived thievery of the commercial banks.
• Globally, of the 1,393 new drugs approved for sale between 1975 and 1999, only 16 (a little over 1%) targeted tropical diseases and tuberculosis, which between them account for 11.4% of the global disease burden.6 The majority of these were developed outside the research labs of Big Pharma.5
• Funding for malaria research is 80 times lower than for hiv/aids and 20 times lower than for asthma – and malaria gets the most research funding of all tropical diseases.7 Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. Only 10% of global health research (private and public combined) is devoted to diseases that account for 90% of the world’s disease burden.6
• Of the 10 best-selling drugs of 2002, the top two (worth $13.5 billion in sales) were aimed at reducing cholesterol, one tackled high blood pressure, one ulcers, and two were antidepressants.1
• In the US in 2000, the industry spent $92.3 million on 625 lobbyists (more than one for every member of Congress).13
• The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have upped the proposed spend for 2004 to $150 million.14
• Industry lobbyists from the rich world are pushing for wider patent protection under TRIPS (the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement). If they get their way the costs of drugs in some countries could rise by up to 200%.8
• Between 1997 and 2002, promotion to healthcare professionals in the US doubled to $18.5 billion. Direct-to-consumer advertising added another $3 billion.
• In the past decade the number of sales reps has tripled to 90,000 in the US and 110,000 in Europe.10
• In Australia drug companies spent more than $660,300 a day on promotion. But this is only about 1% of the figure spent each day by companies in the US.11
• In 2001, leading US drug companies spent almost two-and-a-half times more on marketing, advertising and administration than they did on R&D.12
• In the poorest countries of Africa and Asia, half the population does without.
• In the rich world, under 40% of medicines are bought privately compared to 67% in sub-Saharan Africa and 81% in Asia and the Pacific.
Medicines as percentage of total health expenditure, 2000
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