Global Pharma Giants versus India: Hegemony verses Self-reliance

| Ajith Shetty Heranje
(Image credit: The Intercept)
  • Using the cover of intellectual property, most Pharma companies in America and Europe have gained control of diseases and on developing suitable medicines for the same
  • In traditional societies like India, a section of the society dedicated their lifetime generation after generation to understand the disease and develop medicines through research for its cure.
  • Globalization has exploited the traditionally acclaimed medicinal practices just like it did for the cultural practices. Pharma giants are the de facto kings who have the authority to produce medicines for any ailment in the world!
  • When Indian company developed a vaccine for Covid, the Pharma giants were shaken. Everything was done to malign the competency of Covaxin in collusion with few opposition parties.
  • Opposition parties, ‘Intellectuals’, News and Media agencies made every effort to malign the vaccination drive in India.
  • Despite the pressure tactics of all kinds used against the Government, India in association with eight global companies is set to vaccinate all its citizens by December.

It is true that the so-called progressive nations of the modern world still find it difficult to accept and acknowledge the prowess of India’s capabilities. In addition to the enormity of problems, the COVID pandemic has also provided an opportunity to all the nations across the world to showcase their might in the field of medicine. It is a known fact that any disease or illness and its related medicine are symbolically interconnected. This is evident in any case for that matter, be it polio, cancer, AIDS, etc. Either the growth of these illnesses or diseases are to be controlled or they have to be treated with suitable medicines.

By the way, either controlling the disease or developing suitable medicines are unavailable in any country for that matter so far. The control of these aspects is in the mighty hands of the Pharmaceutical Industry. Using the cover of intellectual property to protect the drugs through patents, most of the companies in America and Europe have gained control on these aspects. Questions like: “How can this patent translate into better financial returns?”, “Which is more profitable? To find the solution to a disease or to not find; if at all it is found, how to make it inaccessible to the world to enrich the fortunes?” govern the critical decisions of these giants. 

Let us consider the example of cancer!

This ailment has troubled humankind since 3000 B.C. Although human beings have explored outer space using advanced science and technology, they have failed to find the solution to cure a 5000-year-old disease like cancer. Is this not sufficient to prove to those people who are in the bubble of advanced scientific horizons who are already in the future that they are in a disgraceful reality. For a fact, as of the year 2019, Cancer is a staggering 1,18,352 million dollar market. By 2027, this number will go up by a projected increase of 7%. The existing treatment for this condition is Chemotherapy, which has an annual market size of about 74.3 billion dollars.

There were no social practices in ancient societies like India wherein a set of individuals would gain control to develop the medicine and take its distribution. 

In the view of the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies across the globe, cancer is a golden goose. With these compelling profitable numbers, would anyone want to develop a curable drug for this ailment? Definitely no! Even after a thousand years, the cure for cancer will not be discovered. Even if the cure is developed, it will be classified and not revealed. It will probably be used to save the life of a globally renowned individual. It may never be available for access for the general public 

See the history of human evolution. All through the lifespan, the human being would have suffered from ailments. Based on experience, human beings found out medicines for a set of ailments. All the civilizations of the world had this attribute. Be it the Mayan civilization of the Americas, or the Egyptian civilization, Mesopotamia, the Chinese civilization, or even the Sindhu Valley Civilization of India, all these civilizations were distressed by the disease, and to encounter that, people had developed their systems of medicine. There would be no influence of the government in this regard. A section of the society dedicated their lifetime generation after generation to understand the disease and develop medicines through research for its cure. There were no social practices wherein a set of individuals would gain control to develop the medicine and take its distribution. 

It would be in the discretion of the citizens to choose to get treated by whoever they felt comfortable with. Unlike today’s system of prescription drugs, back then, It was a practice for medical practitioners to develop medicine themselves to treat the patients who visit them. Unfortunately today, the modern field of medicine is killing all the traditional medicinal practices. In the name of scientific proof, the competence of these systems was questioned. The general public gradually aligned to this narrative also. Society started to believe that the cure for these ailments can happen only through English Medicine and not by any other medium. 

The act of globalization, exploited the traditionally acclaimed medicinal practices just like it did for the cultural practices. Now, these organizations are the de facto kings who have the authority to produce medicines for any ailment in the world! They rule the space, they expect the world to acknowledge their findings. Any other medical practice will not have the authority to question these practices. In case other systems of medicine try to prove them wrong also, the repercussions will be very severe. We can understand these patterns from what happened to Dr. Giridhara Kaje, Baba Ramdev, or Anandayya, the practitioner who is in news these days from Andhra Pradesh.

When Dr. Kaje came up with the medicine, these giants took enormous strides to defame his image and his medicine. Simply speaking, the summary of the questions posed before Dr. Kaje by these companies were like these: “Millions of dollars worth of capital is invested into our companies world over, out of nowhere, if you come out with a magical formula out of plant bark and provide it to people and cure them, how do we retrieve the millions that are already invested?” Instead of using this language, the companies chose a sophisticated scientific approach to question the authenticity of Dr. Kaje’s medicine.

Eventually, Dr. Kaje had to succumb to this pressure and rename his medicine as “Immunity Booster”. Is it not true that the scores of hypocrites who ridiculed Dr. Kaje’s medicine waited in front of his clinic to get their share of medicines during the first wave of Corona? Dr. Kaje’s company had to spend many sleepless to cater to the demand. The health officer who categorically opposed this system also took the same medicine when one of his family members was affected by Corona. But, the reality is that he is not authorized to speak about this officially! Many such instances are also out there for all to take into account the enormous negative propaganda that was meted against Baba Ramdev’s Coronil. Eventually, it also took a name change and made its way to the market in the guise of “Immunity Booster”. 

Pharma giants are the de facto kings who have the authority to produce medicines for any ailment in the world! Any other medical practice will not have the authority to question their medicines and practices.

In a joint venture, DRDO and Reddy’s Laboratory came out with a novel medicine, and the same made its way into the market. Perhaps, this could be the first-ever medicine developed to treat Covid in the whole world. Until this medicine proved itself among the general public, the fact that it stemmed out of the research undertaken by Patanjali was not revealed. If in case it was revealed, the Western world would probably question the same manner similar to what happened to Dr. Kaje.

Since a week, we are reading about a humble traditional medical practitioner from a remote village in Andhra Pradesh who is making global headlines from his ‘magic formula’. The two adjacent villages where he lives have no cases of Corona, thanks to his marvelous medicine. Not a penny is being charged for administration of this novel medicine to people, it is being provided free of cost! People thronged, media was notified, and the government was of the opinion that this might be a superstitious practice. Only because the village falls in the constituency of the Honorable Vice President, Shri. Venkaiah Naidu and Sri. Anandayya was an acquaintance to the Vice President, he was spared by the local government and was also provided with security. The samples of the medicine he has developed were sent to ICMR for testing.

On the whole one can observe that in order to practice a traditional form of medicine, it has taken the intervention of the Central Government to save the herbal practitioner doctor and his intellectual property. One can see how the giant pharmaceutical lobby will fund the news agencies to report against herbal medicine and malign the image. Only they could do something like this! The general modus operandi would be to: First attack the individual and rattle him if possible, otherwise, attack his ideas! A simple Google search will show you how how the father of Indian Atomic Energy Dr. Homi Baba died. You will understand how India is treated from the western viewpoint. 

Initially, the pharma industry seemed to take a longer time to develop the medicine for Covid, but with the increase in the intensity of the disease, the speed of development of the medicine also increased. It was perceived that the cure for the pandemic would emanate from America and the European world, but for the first time, in this situation, the Government of India showcased absolute leadership. Four to five firms including Bharat Biotech were given the necessary legal and financial support to expedite the vaccination development process. Bharat Biotech’s “Covaxin” entered the market at the same time as Global giant, Pfizer’s vaccine. The price of this Indian vaccine was capped at 250 Rupees by the Modi Government and supplied to about a hundred nations. By partnering with South Africa, the Indian Government made arrangements to waive the patent rights on the vaccine to make it available to all the nations across the world. This shook the Pharma giants. Everything was done to malign the competency of Covaxin in collusion with few opposition parties.

Unfortunately, many in India believed these allegations to a certain extent. Reason being, till now, there was not a situation wherein any nation expect India had come up with a high capability vaccine at a lower price. Pharma giants believed that India being a huge marketplace, could be capitalized by pressurizing the Government to agree to the terms and conditions and the pricing of the vaccine. America’s Pfizer has a big role in this. Pfizer, which stored millions of doses of the vaccine expected countries in Latin America to mortgage military bases in exchange for vaccine shots. Something similar to what East India company had done with India back in the colonial era! This is how these pharma giants capitalize on the situation and render the Governments helpless.

One can see how the pharmaceutical giants and their lobbies will fund the news agencies to report against herbal medicines and malign their image. The general modus operandi is to: First attack the individual and rattle him if possible, otherwise, attack his ideas. Just like what happened to father of Indian Atomic Energy Dr. Homi Baba!

The situation in India could have also progressed in the same manner. At the same time, the opposition parties to the government, the “Intellectuals”, News and Media agencies made every effort to malign the vaccination drive in India. “Vaccines are insufficient, bring them at least from other nations”, this was what Former K’taka CM Siddaramaiah conveyed to PM Modi. Pressure tactics of all kinds were used against the Government.

In the meanwhile, Pfizer offered their product to India. The Government expressed two restrictions to Pfizer. One is a test to validate the usage of Pfizer’s vaccine in India and the second one being that Pfizer would be responsible to give compensation if anyone files a case against them for any ill effects after getting vaccinated. Pfizer disagreed with both these conditions. The Modi Government clearly stated that Pfizer cannot enter India’s market if they do not comply with these conditions. On the sidelines during the same time, reports that vaccines from the government are not being available were in high circulation. The Modi government placed a new proposal before the Niti Aayog that along with two Indian companies, in association with eight global companies, by December, all the citizens of India would be vaccinated. Pfizer did not make the cut here too. After understanding the tough stance of the Modi Government, some media reports say that Pfizer is filing a new proposal before the Government after accepting the conditions laid. 

This will not stop here. World Health Organization has not yet recognized Covaxin in its approved list of vaccines. In that case, many nations will think twice before using Covaxin. Overall, India being resilient and strong irrespective of the odds is being hard for the Pharma lobby. India’s “Seva Bhaav” is a spoke in their business. That being the case, every situation is used to belittle India. Recently, a lady Inspector who tried to take the lobby by its horns has ended up at home after being suspended. This lobby which does not spare Modi, will definitely not spare an upright officer. These companies are no less than the erstwhile East India Company which pushed India to slavery.

(Author is an entrepreneur and a analyst of current affairs. The original in Kannada is published here. Translated to English by Arjun Shekar)

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2 Comments

  • Problem for covid vaccine or any other medical solution, let us first search in our house, our enemies are inside only, not only for money but for political power, as in the name of secularism/ vote banks they will go to any extent, like in 1980 after janata govt, in 1996/ 1998 by Single vote, again in 2004 by false narrative, so first let us settle in house enemies, before outside pharma industry…

  • Avatar Prema H s

    These pharma giants feel insecured before traditional medicine. They should understand that muscle power, lobbying tactics will not survive for longer.

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