The Philanthropic Side of Pharma
By Chase Bourke, PhD
It’s easy to get the wrong impression about the pharmaceutical industry. Greedy entrepreneurs like Martin Shkreli make headlines for shamelessly inflating the prices of life-saving drugs. Politicians campaign on reducing the high cost of prescription medicines.
But since receiving my PhD in pharmacology from Emory University four years ago, I’ve worked in the pharmaceutical field and been impressed by so many of my colleagues.
Many of those working in drug discovery and development have a friend or family member touched by a life-threatening disease. More often than not, discussions center on “how will this help the patient?” not “how can we make money?”
And perhaps most impressive is the realization that almost all major pharmaceutical companies make it a priority to donate drugs to groups like MAP International so that they can be distributed to those without the means to buy them.
As members of the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD), these corporations partner with humanitarian groups who are responding to disasters (like the Ecuador earthquake), ongoing trauma, such as the Syrian conflict, and health needs in some of the poorest places in the world.
This partnership between corporations and humanitarian organizations means that the drugs donated adhere to standards set by the World Health Organization. These are not drugs that are about to expire or meet less than the most stringent standards. Every year, millions of dollars worth of donated drugs go to groups like MAP, who then distribute them to clinics and health care providers around the world.
Many of the people who receive these drugs are suffering from diseases that can easily be cured by a few doses. And for many poor children, a simple antibiotic, taken for granted in this country, makes the difference between life and death.
As a donor to MAP, I feel proud that the work I do in clinical research and drug discovery can benefit not only those who can afford the best healthcare, but also some of the poorest people in the world. And whenever I hear people express negative feelings about “Big Pharma” I wish they knew all the people I know who are working tirelessly to save lives.
Chase Bourke received his PhD in pharmacology from Emory University in 2012. He has worked in drug research and at the Food and Drug Administration.