In recent years, the outcry over Big Pharma’s huge margins have become increasingly mainstream – think Bernie Sanders, Netflix’s Dirty Money, or even the wildly shared Goldman Sachs report this month which questioned whether curing patients is a sustainable business model.
Much as we hate to admit it, this argument is not straightforward – profits from drug sales pay for ongoing research for new solutions, so this is really a question of degree of profitability, rather than whether they should make profits at all – and it is hard to arrive at a “magic number” for a socially responsible profit target or cap.
It is therefore encouraging to witness breakthroughs outside of Big Pharma. This month, the non-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) announced the results of trials for their combination Hepatitis C treatment in Malaysia and Thailand, priced at US$300 over 12 weeks, vs the prevailing $48,000 drug currently offered by Gilead, and an almost 100% drop in post-subsidy prices previously offered in Malaysia. The combination treatment includes drugs that have been licensed to DNDi by Presidio US and developed by Pharco in Egypt. Although the economics of this partnership are not disclosed – the project is funded by the Gates Foundation, Medecins sans Frontieres – the commitment to socially responsible distribution strategies cement hopes for an established compromise between R&D payback and patient welfare.
This brings me back to my current project – Zunosaki.
Zunosaki has designed a consumer-grade, lightweight & wireless robotic glove that is patented and proven to assist stroke rehabilitation to up to 90% of full motor control in trials, and is set to complete commercial production by July 2018. By working with local NGOs, they are targeting the Bottom-of-Pyramid (BOP) consumer market, which is currently the most vulnerable to structural range-of-movement loss given inconsistent public rehabilitation services. Although their product adopts more advanced technology, they are pricing these units at around a third of the MSRP of the current global incumbent; and by engaging socially responsible partners and investors, this business remains per-unit profitable for all parties involved despite the competitive pricing.
All of these present constructive efforts to negotiate a Third Way, and will hopefully bring a breath of fresh air in the current global environment of blame and general distrust in institutions.
Zunosaki is currently in a process of fundraising – contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in finding out more.