Pharmaceutical companies get cash injection

By Heather Donald

The major pharmaceutical companies that produce the H1N1 vaccine have made huge profits this year due to the swine flu pandemic.

Sanofi Aventis and Glaxosmithkline are just a few companies that have made million pound profits from the lucrative production of the H1N1 vaccine. Sanofi Aventis’ quarterly earnings are up by just over 16% which equals about 337 million euros. Glaxosmithkline’s profits are less clear but they are estimated to be in excess of 153 million pounds.

Despite the global financial crisis it would appear that some pharmaceutical companies are raking in the money. For years pharmaceutical’s reputations have been plagued by reports that they are money-making machines and they do not mass produce drugs, vaccines and health products for the benefit of the people but rather for financial gain.

However, Christopher A Viehbacher, the chief executive Officer of Sanofi Aventis, said in June 2009 at the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle that “Exceptional times request exceptional responses. We need to act responsibly, and we all have to play our part. That is the reason why we intend to donate 100 million doses of influenza vaccine to the WHOimages to help developing countries face the influenza pandemic”. Glaxosmithkline have also made attempts to be charitable by allocating 20% production capacity of their H1N1 Canadian manufacturing site to developing countries.

An expert in the pharmaceutical industry, that wishes to remain nameless, states that “pharmaceutical companies that give their products free of charge to third world countries benefit from the free publicity that is associated with a humanitarian act”. Even workers from within the pharmaceutical arena are sceptical about their egalitarian motives.

Despite attempts by the vaccine manufacturers to promote a charitable reputation, they are still the only ones to actually profit from the flu pandemic. But as drug companies become increasingly unpopular the harsh reality is that we would not be able to fight swine flu without them.