With reference to the current Ebola crisis, Margaret Chan, head of the WHO, describes the pharmaceutical industry as a “profit-driven industry [that] does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay”.
Is this the right approach towards your allies when tackling a global crisis?
Ebola is obviously a crisis and requires massive cooperation between all entities in the health space. Predictably, helplessness does cause one to lash out at anyone and everyone. But this kind of angry outburst and name calling is definitely not going to help – especially when coming from the leader of the WHO. In fact everything I have been reading in the news points to furious R&D, accelerated trials, and improvisation in the pharmaceutical industry to try and find a cure.
We all know that getting FDA approvals for medications before they can be used among the general population as an “approved” drug is a time consuming process. At a time when everyone is battling against all odds, I can’t understand why a leader of the WHO would resort to name calling or branding the whole industry as bad! What if the industry came up with a “solution” that has unknown side effects that surface much later; would leaders like Margaret Chan come to their defense then?
Crisis is a time when partners lean on each other and leverage each other’s strengths to collectively overcome an adverse situation. It is not the time when you point fingers and resort to name calling. Synergy between horizontals / inter-sectoral players is critical to overcoming crisis and achieving success. This is as fundamental in health care as it is in any other industry. Isn’t this one of the key points they put together in the declaration at Alma Ata?
Note: I am not making a case for or against pharmaceutical companies here. The focus of this post is “leadership in crisis”.