Maximizing their already astronomical profits, prescription drug manufacturers are devising programs to increase their profit rates. They know that these measures will hurt people most in need, but they truly have no shame.

Over the past decade or so there are been two main features. First is the monopolization of prescription drug manufacturers amongst the international corporations that control drug development, research and manufacturing. There are less than seven such companies left. Second is the growing rage amongst the world’s peoples against this attempt by these manufacturers to gouge every penny from every patient needing to use these drugs.

In most industrialized countries, prescription drug manufacturers are controlled in their profit quest. To sell their drugs in these countries, each company must negotiate, with the central government, a price for each drug. The selling price for each drug is then set nationally. The incentives for each government is to keep the cost of drugs as low as possible, since these countries also have national health systems to run. The overall cost of medical, hospital and drugs is a national issue. This is the kind of incentive program that makes the drug cartels crazy.

These same drug cartels complain that they have to charge high prices in the U.S. to make up for low profits from Europe. How many people really believe that one?

The phony cry by the drug manufacturers that constricting their profits makes it impossible to develop new drugs is a complete lie. For example, the level of research and development of cancer related drugs in France and other European countries is extremely high. Cancer treatment in France is probably the best in the world.

These profit-seeking cartels are also behind the cut backs on the U.S. government’s investment in public drug research (the National Institute of Health’s budget is facing the Bush budget ax). They want to control all such research for profits.

In the U.S. there is no ceiling on drug prices and profits. The only leverage patients have is to go to Canada or Mexico to purchase the same drugs for far cheaper prices. This is no longer a well-kept secret. Recently, GlaxoSmithKline, United Kingdom drug giant, told its Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that the company would no longer supply them with drugs, if they continue to sell to U.S. consumers.

The terror that Glaxo is perpetrating is just an extension of their political agenda. PHARMA, the drug company’s front organization, is hard at work trying to kill the excellent prescription drug effort in Ohio; they are still trying to kill the progressive Maine prescription program that is the most advanced pro-people drug program in the U.S.

The truth is that the drug industry is not doing less research and development due to European drug programs or U.S. efforts to control prices. These companies spend almost all their profits on astronomical salaries and buying members of Congress and State government officials. That is the real scandal.

Pro-people politicians in Congress and state houses across the country need to hold hearings and expose the role of PHARMA and the individual drug companies. That would be a powerful ingredient to the growing people’s movement for affordable prescription drugs that everyone desperate needs.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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