All posts by Samantha L Donovan


Throughout this course we have discussed the ways in which we can provide medical resources in order to improve the health of individuals in developing countries. A substantial amount of the class readings focused on the lack of medical treatments and limited access to essential resources that are desperately needed by suffering patients. However, how much knowledge and control do people trying to help possess over the quality and distribution of medicines? I believe that WHO needs to establish a more active role and evaluate the drug regulations/policies that are in society today. It is not right to take advantage of people who do not possess access to resources and technologies that inform people of medical remedies.

In a recent study, out of thirty-five samples of co-trim oxazole purchased in Ghana, Nigeria, and Britain, only sixty percent contained the requisite amount of the active ingredients needed! Another study estimated that over 120,000 children under the age of five years-old died because of ineffective malaria medicines (NY Times). The fraudulent crime of marketing these substandard medicines has increased over the past decade. Manufacturers have discovered ways to sell medicines and save money by reducing the amount of active ingredients. By committing this crime, it can accelerate the development of resistant germs, and thus, infect new people (NY Times). What steps need to be taken in order to address these issues and form regulation policies?

If you can recall from the beginning of the semester, we discussed how tobacco companies have inserted themselves in the market to poorer nations. People in the US recognized the direct correlation between tobacco users and cancers, so this once “attractive” product now possessed a “dirty and unhealthy” stigma. Therefore, the trend in the US started to decline, manufacturers had to focus on a new audience to target in order to gain a profit. Today, 80% of smokers live in poorer countries (Mason, Corporate Power Lecture). According to Allan Brandt, “This is not really consent in the meaning of consent, and that tobacco companies purposely engineer consent by marketing,” Poorer people are suffering due to the lack of knowledge and falsely advertised products (Brandt). This demonstrates how powerful marketing is in any industry. It appears that manufacturers in pharmaceutical companies are attempting to replicate similar concepts that tobacco companies successfully implemented years ago by selling “fake” drugs to people who are less knowledgeable and desperate to acquire adequate medications. Ultimately, this can cause more harm, and it also depletes poor people of the little money they have.

This proposes an issue to implement pharmaceutical infrastructures globally when we lack control over the quality of the supplements on the shelves. In Improvising Medicine, Dr. P expresses the urgent need for access to medicines for his patients. It is true that individuals in poorer countries are not provided with essential medicines, and if they are, they are listed at an unaffordable price. Not only do they not have medicines that US citizens acquire, but they barely have basic medical technologies, infrastructures, supplies-bandages, syringes, glucose sticks, and antiseptics (Livingston). Thereafter, it appeared that Halfdan Mahler had the same ideology of ensuring essential medicines were provided and affordable price to people in underprivileged nations. However, distinguishing what is an “essential” drug provoked huge debates, and people argued that the WHO was exceeding its role (Greene). Is there some way combine these ideologies that will provide fairness and equality to all people? Do we really want to implement pharmaceutical infrastructures that contain overpriced and falsely advertised drugs to poor and sickly patients? After reading “Stemming the Tide of Fake Medicines,” I am a little more skeptical about how people in developed countries should approach this issue. We could potentially making the situation worse by funding for infrastructures that contain harmful drugs.

This is not only a problem in poor nations, but this is also found in wealthier countries such as the US. The FDA is constantly recalling drugs in our local pharmacies (Prescription Drug Ads). Overall, I think this exposes the flaws that are currently found in pharmacies, and I believe that we need to address this problem before endangering the lives in other countries as well. At least we have access to knowledge about supplements; people in developing countries take what they can receive especially when it is listed at an affordable price. If the medicines are overpriced, this causes even more of a problem because now people are purchasing inadequate medicines at a price they cannot afford. They could use this money for other necessities such as food and water, which arguably could have cause the need for medicine in the first place due to the lack of sanitation.

Discussion Questions:


  • Harsh Chandra’s post (October 2nd, 2015) discusses how overpriced drugs are being offered to people in developing countries. It is heart-breaking to see that developed countries are scamming these poor people by selling drugs that do not contain the full active ingredients, and on top of that, they are selling these fake medicines at a price is equal to a person’s monthly salary. How do you think we (or the WHO) should address this issue? Is there a way we can regulate the drugs that offered to developing nations? Is it our responsibility?
  • Health as a human right is still not present in the US today. We have access to an abundant amount of drugs, but they are costly. Prices in the US can be up to ten times higher than other developed countries (Syrmopoulos). This is due to the US manufacturer’s freedom to set their own prices. That being said, how are we supposed to instill this ideology of “health for all” that Halfdan Mahler once advocated for? It seems implausible to implement this idea considering the US has yet to even accomplish this. Should we take a different approach to improve global health rather than the implementation of drugs?


Outside Sources:

“Stemming the Tide of Fake Medicines.” The New York Times. Ed. Editorial Board. The New York Times, 17 May 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

“35 FDA-Approved Prescription Drugs Later Pulled from the Market – Prescription Drug Ads –” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Syrmopoulos, Jay. “Chart Comparing Global Drug Prices Exposes How US Govt Creates Mega Profits for Big Pharma.” The Free Thought Project. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.


In-Class Readings:

Greene, Jeremy A. “Making Medicines Essential: The Emergent Centrality of Pharmaceuticals in Global Health.” BioSocieties 6.1 (2011): 10-33. Web.

Livingston, Julie. Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Durham: Duke UP, 2012. Print.

Mason, Katherine. “Corporate Power.” BioMed Center, Providence. 21 Sept. 2015. Lecture.

Brandt, Allan M. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.