The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

The dark side of the pharmaceutical industry

There is a disconnect between the price that drugs take to develop and the price that they are sold for

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On Wednesday February 19th, Manchester Youth Stop AIDS society hosted the 10th annual Speaker Tour. Manchester Youth Stop AIDS is part of a national network of groups and societies who are passionate about campaigning to bring about an end to AIDS. There is currently no cure for HIV, however, with the currently available treatment, the continuous spread of HIV could be prevented. This is why one of the three targets Youth Stop AIDS wishes to achieve by 2030 is zero new infections. The other two goals are zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.

The Speaker Tour visited 17 different locations over a three week period, eventually finishing in the Houses of Parliament. George and Brian were the two HIV-positive speakers that spoke in Manchester. Brian, who was born HIV-positive in Uganda, spoke about the shame he felt when his teacher asked him—in front of his entire school class—about the pills his teacher had found. Those pills were Brian’s HIV medication, and after that day he felt ashamed and excluded from the rest of his class. George, from England, told us about the drastic side effects he had experienced when he first started taking his medication and about his feelings towards his status—both now and when he was initially diagnosed. Both George and Brian told us about their desires to turn their HIV statuses into something positive. They believe that, through speaking out about their own personal experiences with the virus, they will inspire more people to do the same—but not just those living with HIV.

There is a myriad of problems surrounding HIV and AIDS. The stigma that has historically been associated with the virus still remains today, meaning that many people are incorrectly fearful of HIV-positive people based on how they believe the virus is transmitted; the consequences of a diagnosis; and the types of people that can catch it. By speaking out about HIV, we are helping to reduce this stigma so that a HIV diagnosis does not come attached with other non-health-related problems.

Over 36 million people are currently living with HIV, however only 15 million of them have access to the treatment that they desperately require. This treatment reduces the chance of transmission by 97 per cent, meaning that it could essentially be used as a prevention method. Not only that, the life expectancy of a patient on treatment can be the same as someone without HIV. It seems completely counter-intuitive that, given its efficacy, this treatment is only accessed by few. The reason for this inequality is based on the current system of biomedical research and development.

Currently, more money is invested into research for treatment for Male Pattern Baldness than HIV and AIDS, this is due to the enormous discrepancy in the amount of revenue that can be generated from the subsequent drugs developed. This situation does not apply to HIV alone. The first Ebola outbreaks occurred in 1976. However, there was limited research into the means by which Ebola could be treated, due to the epidemiology of the virus. Consequently, the most recent Ebola epidemic killed five times as many people as all the previous Ebola epidemics combined. Is it even worth speculating about the number of lives that could have been saved if pharmaceutical companies had been interested in developing treatment for Ebola back in 1976?

The stringent patents applied to the drugs in question also mean that treatment for HIV, and other diseases, can be extortionately expensive due to certain drug companies having a monopoly over the prices of the drugs. As a result, even if the appropriate drugs did exist, the possibility of being able to afford them is completely out of the question for many people. This is especially the case in Sub-Saharan Africa where 70 per cent of the world’s HIV-positive population live.

Until “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli hiked up the price of Daraprim from $20 to $750 per tablet, the flaws of the pharmaceutical industry have rarely been exposed in mainstream media. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a condition sometimes developed by AIDS patients that can be fatal if untreated. Shkreli justified his 5500 per cent price increase by comparing the medication to cars, stating that “if there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we buy that company and we ask to charge Toyota prices, I don’t think that that should be a crime.” His actions have been deeply criticised by people with varying levels of knowledge in the biomedical industry. He was subsequently considered to be the personification of the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry and was nicknamed the “pharma bro”.

An article published previously in this paper, written by Jessica Chow-Lau, defended Shkreli and his actions. In this situation, however, it is essential that the overall picture is taken into consideration, rather than simply the actions of individuals. It is completely absurd that the man who pays $2 million for a one-of-a-kind album by Wu-Tang Clan also has the control over the price of life-saving medicines. Such people like himself should not be able to prevent access of essential medicines to those who require them.

If healthcare was truly considered to be a basic human right, large companies and individuals would not be able to profit from the lives of others, as is currently the case. The entire system is focused around the ultimate profit made from the drug developed, however there appears to be some discrepancy between the real cost of drug development and that stated by pharmaceutical companies. This is exemplified by the Indian drug company, Cipla, who have offered anti-retroviral medicines (to treat HIV) at under $350 per year, per patient.

Given the complexity of the system of biomedical research and development, there is no simple solution to how the price of drugs should be determined. Despite this, a shift is urgently required so that health is prioritised over profit with respect to the reasons for drug development. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have been a driving force in ensuring that this switch occurs by pioneering new approaches to the ways in which affordable, essential medicines should be developed. As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) are holding a meeting later this month to push for reforms to the research and development systems to take place. Currently, the UK government are yet to confirm their attendance at this meeting. Youth Stop AIDS however, would like to change this. Their petition to convince the UK government to attend the meeting is rapidly acquiring signatures—indicating that people really do believe that global health should be prioritised over profits. As a result of the Youth Stop AIDS Speaker Tour, it is hoped that an increasing amount of people are aware of the issues associated with the pharmaceutical industry and are inspired to push for the essential changes that must take place in order to save millions of lives.

To find out more about the work of Youth Stop AIDS, and to sign the petition, head over to www.youthstopaids.org.

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  • MELISSA WADE

    Happiness is all i see now I never thought that I will live on earth before the year runs out. I have been suffering from a deadly disease (HIV) for the past 3 years now; I had spent a lot of money going from one places to another, from churches to churches, hospitals have been my home every day residence. Constant checks up have been my hobby not until this faithful day, I was searching through the online, I saw a testimony on how one Dr Oneida helped someone in curing his HIV disease, I quickly copied his email which is, oneidaherbalcure@solution4u.com, just to give him a test I spoke to him, he asked me to do some certain things which I did, he told me that he is going to provide the herbal cure to me, which he did, then he asked me to go for medical checkup after some days after using the herbal cure, I was free from the deadly disease, he only asked me to post the testimony through the whole world, faithfully am doing it now, please brothers and sisters, he is great, I owe him in return. visit him if you are having a similar problem just email him on, (oneidaherbalcure@solution4u. com) or call +447 035 906 904……………………………………

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  • Irena Jankowska

    These same God sent Man called Dr. Ihionkhan Molan i talked about few years back has done it again, viewers If you can recall,this was the same great man that helped me with my problems concerning marriage.I never believed in spells or any herbalist,not until i contacted this great man.I am being the C.E.O Korean Air-flight.I have been on Drugs since 2007,I was tested HIV Positive.Due to some Family Issues, I had misunderstanding with my Husband,and we went separate ways.But as i speak I am now HIV negative, and also my darling husband is back with me and we are very happy again.That has been my previous Testimony cause i had no much time to elaborate on issues,Though a great work but still kind of skeptical of his powers. But this Time Dr.Ihionkhan Molan has cleared my doubt and given me a reason to write more and more, I know there will be many unbelievers who wont believe my story, but i do not care about believing or not who need to know what is right, true, wrong, and bad should listen to the heart because only your heart can tell what is good and what is not right. After the first Healing and cleansing he did for me, preparing Herbal Medicine and doing a Healing Spell on me and sending the Herbal medicine that is being used to cure HIV/AIDS. I can boastfully say i am Cured and healed because i received the shipment that was being containing Herbal Medicine to Cure me from the terrible and deadly Virus that i was infected with called HIV.I have done my final test with my doctor and my results has appeared to be HIV Negative, right now my results are with my husband, though i was kind of skeptical when he said i should go for test after i have finished consuming the Herbal medicine sent to me, and within few weeks of consuming it, he called and told me to go for a test again and i did as instructed, believe me, after my result i was dumbfounded and now i am being living happily and out of fears. I also do want to say Dr. Ihionkhan Molan was also the helper that Helped me with a love spell which brought back my darling Husband Josh Jankowska back to me,after some little misunderstanding we had years back.And we became one happy family again.Just last month being first Monday morning of the month, my Son was confirmed Positive, being my only son,i quickly recommend the best doctor to him,and drugs was prescribed to him,it was a Shock to me, and that made me confused not even remembering this man that helped me with mine.If you have ever been in such situation you will know what I’m talking about. On Wednesday the day,i remembered Dr Molan and i didn’t hesitate to contact him,which he responded speedily.I was surprised same procedure was carried out,like requesting information, Purchasing of required Herbal materials and then he proceed further.Just last week i got a call from him after my son has consumed the medicine he sent, he called and was telling me he is done with my son’s final cleansing and that he should go for a check up or a test at the hospital. I was happy and Called my son Mack to go for a checkup again,and he told me the result is Negative, I never doubted because i knew it was good to be true so i said to him son Come on what are you waiting for is a House Party today…..I am so Amazed at this man, I still don’t know how much to thank him.he is great and powerful, Viewers reading these, what are you waiting for?? Hit him up with your problems with dr.hiv.aids.curer@gmail.com or better still his mobile phone number +233231791514. Thanks to all and God bless who reads my story and rejoice with me.

  • Irena Jankowska

    These same God sent Man called Dr. Ihionkhan Molan i talked about few years back has done it again, viewers If you can recall,this was the same great man that helped me with my problems concerning marriage.I never believed in spells or any herbalist,not until i contacted this great man.I am being the C.E.O Korean Air-flight.I have been on Drugs since 2007,I was tested HIV Positive.Due to some Family Issues, I had misunderstanding with my Husband,and we went separate ways.But as i speak I am now HIV negative, and also my darling husband is back with me and we are very happy again.That has been my previous Testimony cause i had no much time to elaborate on issues,Though a great work but still kind of skeptical of his powers. But this Time Dr.Ihionkhan Molan has cleared my doubt and given me a reason to write more and more, I know there will be many unbelievers who wont believe my story, but i do not care about believing or not who need to know what is right, true, wrong, and bad should listen to the heart because only your heart can tell what is good and what is not right. After the first Healing and cleansing he did for me, preparing Herbal Medicine and doing a Healing Spell on me and sending the Herbal medicine that is being used to cure HIV/AIDS. I can boastfully say i am Cured and healed because i received the shipment that was being containing Herbal Medicine to Cure me from the terrible and deadly Virus that i was infected with called HIV.I have done my final test with my doctor and my results has appeared to be HIV Negative, right now my results are with my husband, though i was kind of skeptical when he said i should go for test after i have finished consuming the Herbal medicine sent to me, and within few weeks of consuming it, he called and told me to go for a test again and i did as instructed, believe me, after my result i was dumbfounded and now i am being living happily and out of fears. I also do want to say Dr. Ihionkhan Molan was also the helper that Helped me with a love spell which brought back my darling Husband Josh Jankowska back to me,after some little misunderstanding we had years back.And we became one happy family again.Just last month being first Monday morning of the month, my Son was confirmed Positive, being my only son,i quickly recommend the best doctor to him,and drugs was prescribed to him,it was a Shock to me, and that made me confused not even remembering this man that helped me with mine.If you have ever been in such situation you will know what I’m talking about. On Wednesday the day,i remembered Dr Molan and i didn’t hesitate to contact him,which he responded speedily.I was surprised same procedure was carried out,like requesting information, Purchasing of required Herbal materials and then he proceed further.Just last week i got a call from him after my son has consumed the medicine he sent, he called and was telling me he is done with my son’s final cleansing and that he should go for a check up or a test at the hospital. I was happy and Called my son Mack to go for a checkup again,and he told me the result is Negative, I never doubted because i knew it was good to be true so i said to him son Come on what are you waiting for is a House Party today…..I am so Amazed at this man, I still don’t know how much to thank him.he is great and powerful, Viewers reading these, what are you waiting for?? Hit him up with your problems with dr.hiv.aids.curer@gmail.com or better still his mobile phone number +233231791514. Thanks to all and God bless who reads my story and rejoice with me.