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Pharmaceutical Industry is as much prone to corruption as any other industry. Businesses are for profit and they strive to maximize volumes and profits. During this process, possibility of getting boost through corrupt practices keeps coming along. Pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated industry worldwide but is not free from malpractices.

Key areas for corruption are those where key decisions are taken. These include, but may not be limited to, manufacturing, registration, selection, procurement, distribution, prescription, and dispensing at retail and institutional level.

I had the opportunity to read a World Bank document recently titled ‘Corruption and Pharmaceuticals – Strengthening Good Practices to Improve Access’. It is written by Jilian Clare Cohen, Monique Mrazek, and Loraine Hawkins. (The link appears at the end). I shall be quoting extensively from it in this series on this sensitive and critical topic.

Jilian Clare Cohen is an Assistant Professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, and Director of the Comparative Program on Health and Society.

Monique Mrazek is a Senior Investment Officer in International Finance Corporation’s Health and Life Science Practice in Latin America and Venture Capital Groups.

Loraine Hawkins is a Health Economist and Policy Analyst for WHO, based in London, UK.

The abstract sets the ground. [Quote]

The purpose of this chapter is to present an overview of the problem of corruption in the pharmaceutical sector and to equip decision makers with the tools to identify vulnerabilities and to prioritize strategies to tackle this problem. Access to safe, good quality and affordable pharmaceuticals continues to be one of the main problems affecting global health, and corruption is one of the key driving factors. This chapter overviews the main reasons the pharmaceutical system is vulnerable to corruption and presents a framework through which vulnerabilities along the pharmaceutical value chain can be identified. Key decision points are defined as manufacturing, registration, selection, procurement, distribution, prescribing and dispensing. To further assist decision makers, a methodology and application of a diagnostic tool to assess the vulnerability to corruption at these core decision points along the value chain are presented. The chapter draws on best international practice and country examples to help inform decision makers not only to identify problems in their own countries, but also strategies to prioritize interventions and tackle corruption. [Unquote]

As Head of International Business and Business Development for several years, I had the opportunity to explore the markets in several countries in Europe, South America, Middle East, Far East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East, West, South, North, Central Africa. My visits included visits to Health Regulatory Authorities in most countries. Corruption in Pharmaceuticals is a tangible and palpable problem.

World Health Organization in its policy document says, “Essential medicines save lives and improve health when they are available, affordable, of assured quality, and properly used”.

Pharmaceuticals remain critically important to health system and that is why the global pharmaceutical market has crossed a trillion-dollar mark. The distribution, however, is highly uneven. North America alone, constitutes about 45% of global Pharma market, while its population is only 4.74% of world population. People in developing countries constitute about 80% of the world population, but their share of Pharma market is only about 20% in value. They may be selling more units of drugs due to relative low prices, but the inequity is clear and present.

WHO estimates that approximately one third of world population, which is now two and half billion people, lack regular access to medicines. We know the situation in Pakistan’s rural areas. WHO also estimates that by improving access to essential medicines, about 10 million lives could be saved every year.

WHO further says that Inadequate access to drugs is also a problem in developed countries such as the US, because many senior citizens and those who are not insured are not able to afford the needed drugs. This is the reason for flourishing of online pharmacies there, which claim to offer heavy discounts. In the end, many of them turn out to be scams where patients lose money and get hurt.

The present inequality in access to drugs may be caused by several factors, such as poverty, high drug prices, inadequate health infrastructure, and corruption. The last one, Corruption, is in focus as it affects all facets of healthcare. Presently, we talk about Pharma sector in some detail.

To be Continued……

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