Monday, 29 April 2013

Economics 101

I am by no means a big industry apologist, and I have no illusion as to where a big pharmaceutical enterprise's real loyalty lies: right there at the bottom line. (I assume that holds true for all but a handful of truly, truly altruistic enterprises, too). That's not a condemnation of the capitalistic system, mind you: it's just recognizing the nature of the beast.
The good thing about recognizing that reality is that we can rely on a company's greed to determine what it's likely to do. Will it sell stuff that is not going to turn a profit? Certainly not for long, because it would quickly go belly up. And even if we can assume that most companies will gladly cut corners and sell stuff that's no as goopd as it's made out to be (and don't fail to read Ben Goldacre's excellent blog on the subject of pharmaceutical shenanigans), we also know that in most countries, the public is protected by agencies that try to make sure that when a drug is advertised as being efficient against certain types of cancer, it's because it has been strenuously tested and found to work.
Quite unlike so-called "alternative" remedies sold over the counter with no guarantee, but instead with vague and ill-defined statements like "helps stimulate the immune system".
Many Starry-eyed idealists truly believe that royal jelly or dandelion extracts will cure whatever ails them (and you). Many snake-oil peddlers will sell you such concoctions, often wrapped in sciency-sounding gobbledygook where the words "quantum", "vibration", and "balance" are used willy-nilly. At their worst, these impostors will prey upon people who, having been disappointed by the lack of succor "official" (read "real") medicine could bring to their ailments, turn to whatever buoy they can find.
To anyone tempted to fall for the ploy of the alternative crowd, my advice would be this: if you can't trust the altruism of big pharma (and you can't), then have faith in their greed. These companies will sell you whatever they can if they can make a profit out of it. The reason they don't sell you snake-oil as medicine is because they can't; regulations make it so that when they sell you something for a specific purpose, it has to demonstratively work.
In that sense, at the very least, corporate greed can be our friend.