The Nobel Prize winner Richard J. Roberts denounces the way in which Big Pharma operates within the capitalist system, putting economic benefits before health and stopping scientific advance in the cure of diseases because cure is not as profitable as chronicity .
In this interview, the Nobel Prize in Medicine Richard J. Roberts, denounces that the drugs that cure are not profitable and that is why they are not developed by the pharmaceutical companies that, on the other hand, do develop chronifying drugs that are consumed in a serialized way.
This, Roberts points out, also means that some drugs that could completely cure an illness are not investigated. And he wonders to what extent it is valid that the health industry is governed by the same values and principles as the capitalist market, which come to resemble those of the mafia.
Does the research can be planned?
- If I were Minister of Science, I would look for enthusiastic people with interesting projects; I would give them just enough money so they could do nothing but investigate and let them work for ten years to surprise us.
- Sounds like good policy.
- It is often believed that, to get very far, you have to support basic research; but if you want more immediate and profitable results, you should bet on the applied one ...
- And it is not like that?
- Often the most profitable discoveries have been made from very basic questions. Thus was born the gigantic and billionaire American biotech industry for which I work.
- How was it born?
- Biotechnology arose when passionate people began to wonder if they could clone genes and began to study them and try to purify them.
- Quite an adventure.
- Yes, but nobody expected to get rich with those questions. It was difficult to get funding to research the answers until Nixon launched the war on cancer in 1971.
- Was it scientifically productive?
- It allowed, with a huge amount of public funds, a lot of research, like mine, that did not work directly against cancer, but was useful to understand the mechanisms that allow life.
- What did you discover?
- Phillip Allen Sharp and I were awarded for the discovery of introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene splicing (gene splicing).
- What was it for?
- This discovery allowed us to understand how DNA works and, however, it only has an indirect relationship with cancer.
- Which research model do you think is more effective, the American or the European?
- It is obvious that the United States, in which private capital takes an active part, is much more efficient. Take, for example, the spectacular advance of the computer industry, where it is private money that finances basic and applied research, but with respect to the health industry ... I have my reservations.
- I hear you.
- Research in human health cannot depend only on its economic profitability. What is good for company dividends is not always good for people.
- Explain yourself.
- The pharmaceutical industry wants to serve the capital markets ...
- Like any other industry.
- It is not just any other industry: we are talking about our health and our lives and those of our children and millions of human beings.
- But if they are profitable, they will investigate better.
- If you only think about the benefits, you stop worrying about serving human beings.
- For example…
- I have verified how in some cases researchers dependent on private funds have discovered very effective medicines that would have completely ended a disease ...
- And why do they stop investigating?
- Because pharmaceutical companies are often not so interested in curing you as in getting money from you, so that research is suddenly diverted towards discovering medicines that do not cure completely, but
They make the disease chronic and make you experience an improvement that disappears when you stop taking the medicine.
- It's a serious accusation.
- Well, it is common for pharmaceutical companies to be interested in lines of research not to cure but only to chronify ailments with chronic chronic drugs that are much more profitable than those that cure completely and
once and for all. And you just have to follow the financial analysis of the drug industry and you will see what I say.
- There are dividends that kill.
- That is why I told you that health cannot be just another market nor can it be understood only as a means to earn money. And that is why I believe that the mixed European model of public and private capital is less easy than
encourage such abuses.
- An example of such abuse?
- Antibiotics have been discontinued because they are too effective and completely cure. As no new antibiotics have been developed, infectious microorganisms have become resistant and today tuberculosis, which had been defeated in my childhood, is re-emerging and has killed a million people this past year.
- Are you not talking about the Third World?
- That is another sad chapter: Third world diseases are hardly investigated, because the drugs that would combat them would not be profitable. But I'm talking about our First World: medicine
that cure at all is not profitable and that is why they do not investigate it.
- Politicians don't intervene?
- Do not be under any illusions: in our system, politicians are mere employees of big capital, who invest what is necessary so that their boys are elected, and if they do not leave, they buy those who are elected.
- There will be everything.
- Capital is only interested in multiplying. Almost all politicians - and I know what I'm talking about - blatantly depend on those multinational pharmaceutical companies that finance their campaigns. The rest are words ...
The interview was originally published by the Spanish newspaper Vanguardia.
Richard J. Roberts was born in Derby, England, in 1943. He initially studied Chemistry, later he moved to the United States, where he was teaching at Harvard and at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Since 1992 he has directed the research work of the Biolabs Institute, Beverly, (Massachusetts).
He was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, shared with Phillip A. Sharp, for his work on introns, pieces of DNA that have nothing to do with genetic information. They were able to describe that the information deposited in a gene was not arranged in a continuous way, but was rather fragmented.
The first experiments were carried out on genetic material of viruses, particularly adenovirus.
They both concluded that RNA had to precede DNA in evolution.
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