It is the duty of any government to protect the vulnerable from vultures that circle around them, seeking to feast on their misery. While in the United States, the millionaire owner of a pharmaceutical company is now in jail because of the shameless way in which he boosted the price of an essential drug, it is a reality that embassies across the world allow themselves all too often to lobby for Big Pharma, forcing weaker governments to accept super high prices of essential drugs. As a consequence, even as human rights reports get written by staffers in these diplomatic outposts, hundreds of thousands of patients who are unable to afford sky-high prices, either remain sick or even perish. Medical care in the US is unaffordable to most of the population and increasingly so for the taxpayer. This is because of the manner in which hundreds of well funded lobbyists for Big Pharma ensure that lawmakers in Washington obey the diktat of those who profit from human misery. While research and innovation are used as an excuse for high prices, the reality is that most of the research gets done in universities or in government laboratories, rather than within the companies that profiteer from the findings. Diplomats from powerful countries such as in North America or the European Union should not act as the servants of those who seek to deprive the poor of access to essential medicines because of resort to the expedient of charging super high prices in order for those owning the company to laugh all the way to the bank to the accompaniment of wails from those who are helpless. The Narendra Modi government has capped the price of some medical devices and in this manner sought to halt the extreme profiteering indulged in by manufacturers and middlemen through sale of such devices to the sick. This has expectedly created a hubbub within the community of the few who prosper at the expense of the many. Big Pharma lobbies in Delhi that are especially active in the Lutyens’ Zone are seeking to ensure that stringent curbs be placed on the power of government agencies to limit prices of essential medical cures. It is reported that an official group has begun to review practices in the matter, and lobbyists are hoping that their deliberations will result in an end to the all too rare practice of imposing price curbs on select medical items. Prime Minister Modi must see to it that Trojan horses in the ministries involved should not succeed in their mission of vultures feasting on the vulnerable through sky high prices of drugs needed for the preservation of life.

Prime Minister Modi has unveiled a scheme for healthcare of the millions, and such a scheme can succeed only if costs are kept under control. Although generic drugs are supposed to be recommended, yet such instructions are often ignored by those in thrall to Big Pharma. Insurance companies will need to hike up premiums to unaffordable levels in order to meet the rising cost of healthcare in India. Rather than coddle Big Pharma, what needs to be done is to ensure that prices of drugs essential for the treatment of grave illnesses be kept at affordable levels. Big Pharma assisted by US President Bill Clinton waged a war against generic drug manufacturers in India. Both the US and the EU competed with each other to keep generic drugs made in India from patients who needed them. The same Bill Clinton is now claiming credit for battling AIDS, an ailment that was brought under control by drugs produced by the very same Indian companies that he targeted while in office. While Barack Obama claimed to be an idealist, it is sad to relate that he too as President of the United States unwaveringly took the side of Big Pharma, rather than that of the desperately poor across the world. Of course, the latter could not give him any campaign donation, unlike the former, who boosted his political kitty by tens of millions of US dollars. Unfortunately, there are too many policymakers who are susceptible to the wiles of lobbyists. It is up to the Prime Minister to ensure that such shenanigans do not succeed, and that whatever drugs are needed for treatment of grave ailments should be made available at a reasonable and not an extortionate price. For the past few years, the cost of drugs has been going up much too often. This trend needs to be examined and curbed. If the system of universal healthcare implemented by the Modi government is to succeed, it is essential that both production as well as use of generic drugs be boosted, and that profiteers be restrained from feasting on the miseries of the underprivileged. Low cost medicine is as important as clean water and fresh air. Swachh Bharat must go hand in hand with Swasth Bharat. Efforts by officials and politicians in thrall to lobbyists to feed the insatiable greed of Big Pharma for profits should not succeed.

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