I think it is unequivocal fact that without the pharma industry there would be a lot less people alive on the earth today. That’s just indisputable. So what went wrong, why do we have such a negative view of this industry?

I believe that one of the big ‘issues’ is that people believe they make too much money from our health. Former Merck executive Peter DeVilbiss wrote in Forbes Magazine “The fallacy that everyone who works in pharma is a rich fat cat is just that, a fallacy. Many of these scientists have advanced degrees from the best institutions in the world and spent many many years getting their credentials. They are paid well, but certainly not extravagant amounts and when compared to many other jobs that require less expertise, have less impact on the globe, and less responsibility, there is good value for the money”.

Why do we think Big Pharma shouldn’t make a profit? Do you expect your bank, insurance company or whatever company that made the car you drive should be a non-profit business? Many people were or are business owners, did you run your business on a non-profit basis? Why do we expect different standards from Big Pharma?


If you have spent any time in America you will have realised that Big Pharma spend a lot of advertising their products. Thankfully, we don’t see much of this in Europe.

Peter DeVilbiss commented in his article in Forbes “If there was a regulatory mandate for all pharma companies to cease direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs and vaccines, what would happen? It is not clear to me that this would be a death knell for the industry. I think it’s reasonable to assume that revenues would fall, but the big question is whether costs would fall more? This could never happen on a voluntary basis because of game theory but if it were mandated and applied across the board, I’m not so sure that pharma wouldn’t be better off in a few ways. For one, I have a point of view that bottom line profits could actually increase, providing more money for R&D and allowing companies to focus more time and energy on portfolio management of drug pipelines. I also have a point of view that the industry image and reputation may improve”.

Much of this may be true in America where drugs are more expensive and not, if at all, subsidised by the government. Here in Portugal, and most of Europe, we don’t pay the full retail price, the national health service subsidises the cost to patients. On minor products that may be only a few Euros, but the major drugs can be subsidized by up to, or even over, 50 percent.

National health services negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies what the government will pay for the drugs before they get to be available in your local pharmacy. From what I have read, they negotiate from strength and get the best deals possible.

Covid-19 Vaccine

How much did you pay for your anti covid vaccination? Nothing. How much investment was made to bring these to market in what must be considered as a record time. Can you even imagine the investment made in research to bring these vaccines to people in what must be considered a triumph in medical drug history?

Before you hit the keyboard to respond that you don’t believe the vaccines work, I can only say the facts don’t bear this out. You have the freedom to accept or not to be vaccinated, and rightly so. If you don’t believe in vaccines, it’s worth remembering this. Vaccines help protect against many diseases that used to be much more common. Examples include tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis, and polio. Many of these infections can cause serious or life-threatening illnesses and may lead to life-long health problems. Because of vaccines, many of these illnesses are now rare.

Richard P Grant writing in The Guardian said. “Yes, pharma has its bad apples. Reps do bad things and unsupportable claims are made. But any transgressions are quickly revealed in the clinic – probably far more quickly than academic research misconduct is noticed, let alone rectified. And of course, the industry is regulated to the nines to try to prevent misconduct – which is far more than can be said for herbalists and the like (or indeed, academic research)”.

What about the vast fortunes Big Pharma is thought to have made out of healthcare? Check out Fortune's Global 500 list for 2021. No pharmaceutical company is in the top ten of the most profitable companies. Not in the top twenty either. The most profitable pharmaceutical company in 2021 was rated at twenty three. Who are in the top twenty? There are six banks, or should I say ‘Big Banks’? Number one was Apple (Big Apple?). They are followed by household names such as Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon etc. Despite that we still hold up Big Pharma for special criticism.

Perhaps its time to take another look at our prejudices. Before ‘keyboard warriors’ start to type in comments, how about looking in your drug cabinet and throwing away all the medication you have, and that includes even the aspirins. Vow never to go the pharmacy again and tell any friends you have that they should do the same (please don’t).

Let’s give Big Pharma a break, they are far from perfect, but without them we would have a lot of very sick people.