Figures Are Not For Fun

Corporate Crime in Pharma Industry

Debasis Bhattacharya

We extend our future readiness purpose to creating a positive social impact.... Corporate Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry appears to be on the rise.... this documents the problems ranging from false advertising and counterfeiting to corruption waste and overpricing".

[Pharmaceuticals, Corporate Crime and Public Health–Graham Dukes, John Braithwaite, J P Molony.]
"A CSR approach can help improve corporate governance, transparency, accountability & ethical standard."
(–health 21

The total world and domestic Pharma market is simply mind-boggling:

World pharma market 2020—93,686,226 million US Dollar.

Domestic Pharma Industries’annual turnover in 2021—42 billion US dollars.
—2018–18 billion dollars
—2024–65 billion dollars (projected)
—2030–120 billion dollars

With the already identified stigmas like transparency, ethical, social, CSR etc the recent research wonders are equally frightening:

*    Zolgensma—Rs 18 crore per dose to treat a generic disorder by Novartis, Switzerland is the most expensive drug that the world has ever seen.
*    Spinraza (API Nursinersen)
Biogen, USA.
–375,000 USD annual cost.
–750,000 (first year)
*    Lumizyme (API Alglucosidase alfa) (Pompe disease)
(Annual cost 520,000-625,000 USD)
Sanofi Genzyme, MA US.
*    Other multi million drugs which are much beyond the reach of common people of 3rd world countries are—
*    Elaprase, *]Brineura, *]Soliris,
*    Carbaglu, *]Ravicti, *]Luxturna,
*    Zokinvy.

These high-cost drugs can even remotely help the poverty-stricken Afro Asian people and where does the word 'Social' fit in as far as the BPL people are concerned!

Yes, Pharmaceutical is the lone Industry which has never been unprofitable, or, in de-growth.

That is also inevitable since this is a lone marketing exception where the users do not have any choice while the non using prescribers have enough of choices with varieties of allurement in some form or other. And, hence the manufacturers have ample opportunities at their disposal to influence, manoeuvre, exploit. Hence the most suffering section of this industry is the employees in general and, Sales Promotion Employees in particular. Nevertheless it's these tireless, rightless sleepless hard working employees' toil and sweat that the base and pillars of this big Industries are built up. Ungrateful millionaires/ billionaires do not hesitate to trample down these builders of pharma empires while conveniently ignoring the tragic sufferings of their families and children–whereas the industry leaders mostly–MNCs as well as domestic big giants like Cadilla, Zydus are in reality works hand in gloves with the ruling governments to manipulate advantages for unlawful activities. They don't find any obstacles to raise the drug price at their will almost yearly. On the contrary people at large are also neglected in health budget regularly. Low GDP is a constraint for the anti people outlook of the government. Over and above GST for medicine is truly an unbearable load for the suffering millions and an excuse for the industry for price rise! Who cares?

The obvious question, therefore, is the benefits, perks, dignity, welfare, legal and moral rights in favour of the employees. It's a fact that Indian constitution does offer inalienable rights to protest against wrongs, to form and act in co-ordination with collective forums. Violation of ILO guidelines for workers is uncompromisable and should be legally adhered to bilaterally.

Here are some of the irregularities on the part of the industry:

Quoting below a list of banned drugs circulated by an eminent medical personality, viz,

Dr Anjali Mathur, Chairman & CMO, Indo American Hosp (IAH), South Dakota, USA–declaring avoid these tabs, they are dangerous as they contain Phenyl Propanol Amide (PPA), which is likely to cause strokes and are banned in USA : D-Cold, Vicks Action500, Actifed, Coldarin, Cosome, Nice, Nimulid, Cetrizet-D.

Here is another pertinent note from Dr Swapan Jana of Society of Social Pharmacology–There's a probable link of a cough syrup by Meden Pharmaceuticals Ltd with the 66 child deaths by severe kidney damage in Gambia, W. Africa. (ref: WHO, dt 05/10/2022.)

Incidentally, Meden Pharma manufactures medicines in Indian Cos., sales here, exports in Asia, Africa, Latin America. The poisonous ingredient here is Die Ethyline Glycol.

In fact he refers to another incident in J J Hospital, Mumbai–where 14 recovering patients suddenly died there by consuming glycerol having industrial glycol in it. In 1986 Lentin Commission termed the concerned pharma co as the "Death Monger" and  "Hawker of Poison"!

There are some state of the art pharma PSUs, viz, IDPL, Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd, Karnataka Antibiotics, Bengal Immunity and Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals. These were the pride of Asia in respect of quality, economy and tradition. They have been closed down because of negligence on the part of Governments. In the present scenario of high priced patented MNC monopoly they could have been useful to manufacture costly drugs at a lower price under compulsory trade license for National interest.

In truth profit is a never ending thirst. Sometimes innocent lives are lost, sometimes it goes for mass termination/transfers to far off places without any valid reasons whatsoever. In both cases corporate greed prevails.

Both are inhuman and unacceptable in a democratic society.

Back to Home Page

Vol 55, No. 38, Mar 19 - 25, 2023