Social Scientist. v 7, no. 80-81 (March-April 1979) p. 78.


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NOTE

Multinationals in the Indian Drug Industry

THE activities of multinational drug companies in the Third World have come in for severe criticism in recent times. Even international meets like the UNCTAD at Colombo and the United Nations itself, have charged the developed nations with perpetrating 'drug colonialism9 in the Third World. Mahler, the Director General of WHO, has even cautioned the governments in the developing nations about the attempts of the multinational drug corporations to market irrational drug formulations which are often discontinued in their parent countries. All this, it is clear, is the result of the high level of concentration and consequent oligopolistic situation in the international drug industry.

Estes Kefauver^ who was the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, in his book In a Few Hands has severely indicted the giant drug companies like Pfizer, Gyna-mide, Squibb and Smith Kline and French Limited for their malpractices and exploitative activities. He painstakingly unearthed a number of instances like the tetracycline case and the tranqui-liser episode involving Pfizer and SKF to illustrate his point.-Kefauver concluded that:

Perhaps no more dramatic illustration of the effect of monopoly on the consumer can be found than in the drug industry. Because of the importance for public health of ethical drugs— those that can be obtained only with a doctor's prescription— the subcommittee's hearings were limited exclusively to that field. This group includes drugs vital in the treatment and cure of acute diseases as well as in the amelioration of chronic disorders. Thus, all of us, young and old, have an abiding interest in the price of drugs. The family with young children inevitably will use antibiotics for the treatment of temporary but potentially serious infections; and apparently one of the inescapable hazards of living longer is a variety of chronic



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