If You Think You've Got Health-Care Problems …

A new study analyzed the effects of buying four basic prescription drugs in “low- and middle-income countries,” and the results aren’t pretty. “Buying brand name amoxicillin, for example, would push an additional 34 percent of Uganda’s population into poverty levels of less than $1.25 a day,” reports FP Passport. “Even middle-income Indonesia would see an additional 39 percent of its population become poor from purchasing the drugs.” The study’s authors conclude that “[a]ction is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems.” [%comments]

Ian Kemmish

This, surely, is exactly why the big pharmaceutical companies have been striking "branded generics" deals with companies in emerging economies?

Brian S

The article also makes this noteworthy addition:
"Medicines are too expensive for their consumers in many a country -- and hence, the profit from selling them is (in relative terms) enough to entice people to put their medicine up on the black market. Want one more externality? Fake drugs. Patients in desperate need of a pill are susceptible to the temptation of a cheaper version -- even if it's not guaranteed to be real. "


"Even middle-income Indonesia would see an additional 39 percent of its population become poor from purchasing the drugs."

I think I see what is trying to be said here, but it makes no literal sense. If poverty is defined in terms of income (rather than assets), then if you're middle income, you're not poor. It doesn't matter what you spend your money on


Why is this an issue? People in Indonesia and Uganada cannot afford to live like people in the US. This is news? 100 years ago they wouldn't have even had the option?

Technology has already rapidly outstripped our ability to provide its benefits to everyone, and this problem is only going to get worse.

We are going to need to get used to a world where a few people fund and use discoveries that are just completely unattainable for the majority.

There are no easy solutions to this problem because solving it means moving radically away from market economies and we do not have a good system to replace them.


Why is it that when things get better, they get worse? I do not remember that chapter from economics course.

Recently, a spate of propaganda pieces have emerged indicating that the "income gap" has gotten worse. Panic! So, I looked up info on median income. It is rising, from1965 to 2005. We have way more people. What a given dollar can buy you now, in terms of food, clothing, electronics or media is way better now than in 1965. Gas is a bit higher but the cost of a decent used car with great mileage is way way better than in 1965.

We have so many more people making median wage that this scaffolds the higher income layers. We have more millionaires than ever, and more billionaires than ever.

So, this is decided to be bad.

Similarly, we have more meds, more access to meds, than 20, 40, 60 years ago, and the dystopians are painting this picture as dismal.

Sure, we should aim for the ideal of meeting the possible 100% health efficacy we could achieve across the globe. But if we are all at oen baseline one day, and the next day a few people are better, is it time to declare failure and misery?

You people have been reading too much Karl Marx, and your thinking has shrunk to only be able to conceive of things in Hegelian dialectics.



Tone down your literalness spooner, by your logic if your job pays 100,000 and your mandatory meal plan is 95,000 you aren't poor!

I wonder

I wonder why the people doing this study assumed (and they did) that these medicines necessarily were taken every single day, for life? While that is fair for the anti-asthma drug, a person normally takes antibiotics for three to ten days -- and, among teenagers and adults, maybe once a year (not the three times they suggested at one point: if a basically healthy adult is taking antibiotics three times a year for acute respiratory infections, then you're wasting antibiotics on the common cold).

So this is really like "Waah, expenses aren't evenly distributed! You have to buy the antibiotic when you need it, rather than paying one penny per day year round!"


I live in the US and I have taken antibiotics maybe once in the past 15 years, possibly not at all.


Hate to tell you this, but one third of the medicines in Africa are fake, counterfeit and of poor quality, or only have a tiny amount of the real thing inside (enough to test positive on quality control but not enough to kill th germ).

So, if it was your kid, would you chose a brand name?

Of course, you still run into the problem of counterfeit drugs that look identical to the brand name ones, but if you examine them carefully often you can tell the difference.

"Fake" and counterfeit drugs kill a million people a year, mainly because the folks die of infections. Malaria medicines are the biggest problem...


Corrupt governments, both...perhaps that's the REAL problem.

Matt J.

This study is a sick joke. Why on earth did they pick those four medicines? Amoxicillin is a penicillin-like antiobiotic. It is fast losing its effectiveness as resistance spreads. Atenolol has been used for years to control heart arrhythmias -- until they finally decided it doesn't do much good for that. The other two are quite obscure.

A serious study would have picked medicines more commonly useful for the population under study, AND taken into account how long a period the patient must take the medicine.

Finally, I have to agree with comment #3: the wording really is very poor, no professional journalist should ever sink to such poor wording.


Matt J, amoxicillin is still widely used - if a bug is susceptible to it, you should use it to prevent resistance to other drugs we have in our arsenal. Atenolol is used to treat hypertension. Glibenclamide is another name for glyburide, which is widely used to treat diabetes. Salbutamol is another name for albuterol, which almost every asthmatic uses.

Gretchen S

What's with the high drama surrounding medical care and treatment? It's a business and the manufacturers are in it for the money. Food and housing are not free; if you want the best, you need to pony up, my friend. Should housing cost the same for everyone, no matter where they want to live? Should nutritious, healthy food cost the same as greasy burgers? No, it's a choice, and you pay for what you can afford. Socialism has never worked and it will never work. What incentive would there be for these companies to produce the life-saving medications and treatments if they were forced to give it away? That would be similar to forcing car manufacturers to cap prices on new vehicles with certain safety features. What about forcing home builders to price houses in "good neighborhoods" similar to those in less desireable neighborhoods? It would be more fair wouldn't it?