Global health

Genzyme puts the squeeze on developing countries

June 21, 2009
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ONE GIRL’S hope, a nation’s dilemma’’ (Page A1, June 14) illustrates Genzyme’s alarming business tactics.

Nearly every country in Latin America has incorporated a guarantee to the right to health in its constitution, including access to “essential medicines.’’

Should drugs for rare diseases, such as Gaucher disease, be considered essential medicines, making governments responsible for their provision?

Latin American court cases have increasingly enforced government provision of essential medicines, regardless of price. This previously resulted in cost-lowering mechanisms. For instance, Brazil developed the capacity to produce its own generic antiretrovirals, fought for price reductions, and focused on prevention. However, the same leverage may not apply to a small country such as Costa Rica, particularly when Genzyme refuses price reductions.

The problem is ultimately the ability of Genzyme to charge any price, unrelated to a reasonable assessment of the costs of production and a marginal profit.

Morally, Genzyme is breaking the rules. It is using predatory tactics and enormous resources to siphon funds of resource-constrained countries; charging excessive prices; maintaining huge profit margins, assured of little threat from generic competition; and staying below activists’ radar. While it has the right to profit, it should not be allowed to drain the strapped resources of developing countries’ ministries of health, using innocent children as a shield for the company’s unscrupulous dealings.

Heather Stone
Global Action Against Poverty Everywhere

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