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June 8, 2010

Fake Drugs and Football: Day Four of the 7th GHC

It is day 5 of the 7th Global Health Course in Tampere, Finland and the topic for the day was Health Systems. We listened to lectures on health care financing, comparing the three types of financing and how they differ from each other. The thing is there is really no perfect system and no hard fast rule on which system each country must adapt. Each system has its own pros and cons and basically it depends on the culture and social acceptability. The lecture was further emphasized when we watched the movie Sicko. I have personally seen it many times and it is interesting to hear comments from non-Americans, especially the Finns who are basically Europeans and are using relatively the same type of financing scheme with the other European countries, regarding the film and basically the health care financing system in America.

After the film we had a lecture on Counterfeit medicines and its global threat. The lecturer was from a huge pharmaceutical company and while he was lecturing, I couldn't help but feel that this lecture was kind of an odd one for a global health course. The lecturer was basically sharing our drugs are manufactured from the research phase up to the manufacturing phase and distribution phase. According to the lecture, most of the expenses in making a drug is in the developmental or research phase. And in his lecture, at least according to his pharmaceutical company, 3 out of 10 drugs are the only ones making profit for the company. The rest of the drugs are either losing profit or not gaining so much profit. And with the threat of counterfeit drugs, pharmaceutical companies are further losing profit.

Now, I agree with counterfeiting being illegal and not ethical, and it is supposed to be the same for all, not just medicines. But I feel the issue should have been about access to drugs, cheaper drugs at that.

It is a given that counterfeit drugs are bad and illegal and are certainly a threat not just to the pharmaceuticals but also the person buying such fake drugs. But what I am saying is that the topic should have been focusing more on how come some countries would sell these same drugs at a relatively much cheaper price and other countries are selling them at a more expensive price.

At the same time, the pharmaceuticals must also start pointing at themselves, especially those pharmaceuticals who are selling these drugs at totally an outrageous price and at the same time influencing some of the medical professionals in what I should say unethical prescription of these drugs. Let's face it. The most common ethical issue facing the medical profession nowadays is the unregulated prescription of drugs. Accusations of some doctors being in cahoots with some of these pharmaceuticals are commonplace and I must admit there are some (not all) doctors who are basically "in the payroll" of these pharmaceuticals so to speak.

If we are to talk about equity like what we did last week, the issue should have been access to medicines. Who shall pay for those who cannot afford? And even if there are already cheaper medicines, how come there are still those who are dying simply because they do not have access to medicines? How can we address this global inequity, where some countries can afford and others seem to cannot?

We had a heavy one during the lectures so the boys decided to play football instead after class. There was this small football field not far from the apartment so the guys went there with our football and played. It was truly a World Cup picture with five countries playing a globally popular sport. We Filipinos had to confess that we are not football players (or soccer players as what we would call it back home)but we are sports fans so we joined the group. The last time I played it was back in high school (I think). I am not really a huge fan of football but like I said, I am a sports fan. I used to play volleyball myself and was part of my school's varsity team. But the last time I played the sport was back in med school.

Anyway, it was a fun match and the guys were basically enjoying it. In my team were two Nepalese, 2 Filipinos and 1 Finn. The other team was composed of Chile, Tanzania, 1 Nepalese and another Finn and Filipino. My team lost though by one goal. I was happy enough to shoot one goal and it was barely an easy goal at that but we were basically running after our breath. I was running out of breath. We needed the exercise. The game ended at around 9pm. We were playing for 3 hours.

My team's not giving up though. We will have another rematch tomorrow.








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