- US$ 4.1 trillion is spent globally on health services every year, with US$ 750 billion spent in the pharmaceutical market.
- 10 to 25% of public procurement spending (including on pharmaceuticals) is lost to corrupt practices.
- In developed countries, fraud and abuse in health care has been estimated to cost individual governments as much as US$ 23 billion per year.
- Countries with a higher incidence of corruption have higher child mortality rates.
- Lack of medicines and counterfeit and substandard medicines lead to patient suffering and have direct life or death consequences.
- To reduce corruption, thorough checks and balances are required at each step in the medicine chain. Good governance includes transparency, accountability, promoting institutional integrity and moral leadership.
HERE to read the Original Fact Sheet"Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicines chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion.1
Unethical practices along the chain can take many forms such as falsification of evidence, mismanagement of conflict of interest, or bribery. The Figure illustrates key steps of the medicines chain and some examples of unethical practices..."
Figure: Key steps of the medicine supply chain and unethical practices in the pharmaceutical sector [gif 86kb]
Impact of corruptionThere are at least three main areas of negative impact from corruption in the medicines chain.
- Negative patient impact. Unethical practices lead to reduced availability of medicines in health facilities due to diversion of medicines, as well as the presence of unsafe or ineffective products on the market. Diverted, counterfeit and substandard medicines have been identified in markets of both rich and poor countries, as well as medicines that are granted unwarranted registration. Such practices lead to patient suffering and have direct life or death consequences.
- Lost resources. Corruption results in enormous amounts of limited public health resources being lost. For example, in developed countries, fraud and abuse in health care has been estimated to cost individual governments as much as US$ 12–23 billion per year.6 In developing countries, up to 89% leakage of procurement and operational costs has been observed.7 Such losses cripple the ability of health-care institutions to provide adequate care.
- Eroding confidence. Corruption also takes a more subtle toll by eroding public and donor confidence in public institutions. In some countries, the public health system is perceived as the most corrupt public service institution.8 Pharmaceutical corruption within ministries of health has also threatened the withdrawal of donor contributions in some low-income countries.9,10,11
While I applaud WHO for taking a stand in the fight against unethical and corrupt business practices within the Pharmaceutical arena, I think that they might want to start their investigations closer to home within their own ranks. Back in December 2009 I wrote about an article that outlined several conflict of interests within WHO over the H1N1 "Pandemic"
And in January 2010 I wrote another blog based on a major news story involving several conflict of interests in the WHO/Big Pharma H1N1 debacle.
Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, accused the makers of flu drugs and vaccines of influencing the World Health Organisation's decision to declare a pandemic.
This led to the pharmaceutical firms ensuring 'enormous gains', while countries, including the UK, 'squandered' their meagre health budgets, with millions being vaccinated against a relatively mild disease...
He added that their influence could have led the WHO to soften its definition of a pandemic - leading to the declaration of a worldwide outbreak last June.
Dr Wodarg said: 'In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies have influenced scientists and official agencies, responsible for public health standards, to alarm governments worldwide.
'They have made them squander tight healthcare resources for inefficient vaccine strategies and needlessly exposed millions of healthy people to the risk of unknown side-effects of insufficiently tested vaccines.'