Human Rights Versus Corporate Capitalism; People Before Profits

Recently US corporation Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, and promptly announced it was increasing the cost from (US)$13.50 per tablet to $750. The same drug is sold in the UK for around $20 for 30 tablets.

When this news became public knowledge there was outrage. Social media went into overdrive, causing Turing to capitulate and announce that it will be reviewing the pricing of daraprim. By how much remains to be seen.

Turing’s CEO saw the rights to the medication as a market opportunity. He felt the market was prepared to pay a lot more for this drug and there was money to be made. And the role of any good CEO is to make as much money as possible for their company. Or more precisely, the company directors and shareholders.

Most public outrage was directed at the Turing CEO. He is possibly the most blatant offender, but he is not alone. Corporate interests have discovered that they can make money by buying up cheap old patents and hiking the price of the drugs in countries that don’t have price regulation such as the US. For example, Rodelis Therapeutics did the same thing with a tuberculosis medication – they increased the price from $500 to $10,800. Again, public backlash has caused a rethink.

These companies are only doing what they are set up to do – make money. There is nothing illegal in what they are doing. It is getting harder and harder to achieve the must-have for any CEO worth their corporate stripes – an increased profit every year. People can’t consume enough to keep the profits growing.

Creative CEOs have to think outside the square; to target items we can’t do without such as medicines, electricity, water, prisons, schools, hospitals, roads – and turn them into profit making enterprises. Those who can pay the extortionate charges get them, those who can’t just have to miss out. So-called Trade Treaties (TPP, TISA) are a tool for pressuring countries to give corporates access.

We know this is wrong. The UN declaration of human rights article 25 states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” We need to put a stop to it.

Social media has proved a good tool for making people aware of what is going on by spreading the word about the activities of Turing Pharmaceuticals and the like. Clicktivism (or slacktivism as some old school activists like to call it) seems to be making inroads as well in getting some actions overturned.

Preventing governments from signing treaties that allow corporates carte blanche in our country is essential. And the myth that never ending economic growth is a good thing must be debunked. It is a disaster for people and the planet and ultimately unsustainable. Turing Pharmaceuticals is just an example of a system that is fundamentally flawed.

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