Pharmaceutical companies are tasked with saving lives, but a new report titled “Poison,” and released today (August 18) by the Action Center on Race and the Economy, breaks down how Black and Latinx people are dying because of big pharma’s high-costs and race being a high risk health pre-condition.
As the executive summary says:
Systemic racial discrimination targets Black and Brown people to the point that race itself could be considered a preexisting health condition. The avoidable inequalities created by structural racism concentrate health risk in Black and Brown communities and then block access to health care services, hamper public health initiatives, and leave aid and assistance to be meted out by inadequate charitable endeavors. Most egregiously, efforts by both government and medical industry leadership to address inequity place the blame and the onus upon these communities to address such health disparities, routinely shaming patients and making patronizing recommendations toward personal responsibility. The high cost of prescription drugs is a key part of this vicious cycle, and the role of Big Pharma’s complicity in extracting health and wealth from Black and Brown communities is the focus of this report.
To that end, the report hones in on diabetes and hypertension, two preexisting and socioeconomically preventable health conditions that put Black and Latinx communities at heightened risks for COVID-19. In noting that members in these communities disproportionately struggle with (and sometimes die from) these conditions at twice the rate of white Americans because of structural racism, the report calls out companies like Eli Lilly, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and Gilead Science for price gouging and the government’s backing of patent monopolies.
In addition to clearly stating the history of pharmaceutical racism in the U.S., the report also offers specific ways to begin to right the medical wrongs inflicted upon Black and Latinx communities, such as:
- Ensure medications and vaccines used to combat the novel coronavirus are offered free of charge
- Designate systemic racism as a public health emergency within agencies at the Department of Health and Human Services
- Take measurable steps toward strengthening the public’s ownership of medicines
- Issue reparations for past harms from the pharmaceutical industry
- Impose compulsory licensing
With Gilead’s COVID-19 vaccine currently priced at over $3,000 per patient, according to the Los Angeles Times, understanding the role big pharma plays in who survives is essential.
To read the complete report, click here.