Re: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Miriam English (
Date: Tue Jul 17 2001 - 21:28:02 MDT

At 02:26 PM 17/07/2001 +0200, Anders Sandberg wrote:
>Ever heard of Losec?

Hmmm... nope. Maybe it is marketed under a different brand name in Oz.

> Exactly why was that a huge commercial success for Astra, if they could
> have gone on selling palliatives for ulcers instead?
>Now the market for ulcer treatments is much smaller.

I don't know of any ulcer cures marketed here in Oz. It has been known for
maybe a decade, maybe two, that the pylori(sp?) bacteria are the cause of
stomach ulcers, but I haven't seen anything other than quackery about them
at chemists (acid-neutralising alkalis, clay drinks, etc.) and quack
palliatives are advertised heavily on TV and in the print media.
However I am not a doctor or a chemist (I'm a lowly artist) so I can't
really say cure are not available. I will be stepping out today to go to a
computer club, so will drop in on a chemist and ask about this.

>You are likely thinking of why so little is spent on malaria vaccines and
>cures for other tropical diseases. That is a real problem, but the issue
>isn't that cures are unprofitable (they aren't) but that it is hard to make
>any profit commensurable with the investment in the current regulatory
>climate. The base costs of pharmaceutical development are high, and if you
>try to get FDA approval or something like it they will be even greater.
>That will make the potential market in the developing countries small, and
>given the latest anti-patent moves on pharmaceuticals you might end up
>funding competitors instead. If you just sell something less well tested
>cheaply or do the tests in the developing nations you will be crucified in
>the media as a ruthless profiteer exploiting the poor. It is a lose-lose
>situation which any sensible corporation will try to stay out from, leaving
>it to far less well funded organisations. Too bad.

Yes. This is part of my point. Capitalism fails here.

It is not really the fault of regulations either. The regulations are there
for a very good reason: to try to eliminate unethical business practices
and honest mistakes (think thalidomide). And those costs would come about
one way or another eventually, perhaps by total distrust of all medical
companies and associated loss of sales, or by insurance costs after mopping
up disasters, or by general damage to the drug-buying public.

What it comes down to is that the phamaceutical companies are motivated by
money. That is neither a good nor a bad thing. But it does mean that
humanity can't depend upon capitalism alone.

This is where non-profit organisations shine. They help humanity where the
money won't lure capitalism.

I feel the need to repeat that I am not against capitalism -- I think it is
very cool. I just don't think it is the answer to everything. And
capitalism as religion scares the willies out of me, just as all religions do.


         - Miriam

Q. What is the similarity between an elephant and a grape?
A. They are both purple... except for the elephant.
Virtual Reality Association

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