Press release |

Pfizer attempts to mislead public over research and development ‘facts’ with Tube ads

Photograph by Séverine Bonnet
In the laboratory of Maradi, a team of a dozen people receive about 1,200 specimens (blood, urine/stool, mothers' breast milk...) every week, to be analyzed for the trial. The specimens taken in the morning, whether by the medical teams at the five health centres involved in the study or by the field workers or assistant nurses at the patients' homes, arrive at the laboratory in Maradi in the early afternoon. Photograph by Séverine Bonnet
Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative R&D costs, as reported here:  Development costs ranged from EUR 100-150 million for a new chemical entity. Figures in GBP ('pounds') converted from EUR.
Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative R&D costs, as reported here:

London, 1 February 2016 — Ads by pharmaceutical company Pfizer on what it takes to bring a drug to market that have just been put up in London’s Westminster Tube station are misleading the public, and are explicitly attempting to influence Members of Parliament with targeted ads positioned by their exit to parliament.  Among the ads’ claims are that it costs £1 billion in research and development to make a new medicine. The ads appear to be aimed at convincing the public and MPs who pass through the station that the high prices pharmaceutical companies charge for medicines are justified. 

Médecins Sans Frontières addresses Pfizer’s false claims with the following response:

“Pfizer are really misleading Londoners and MPs with these so-called facts on what it takes to make a medicine;  we all know it doesn’t really cost a billion pounds – even GSK’s CEO Andrew Witty has said that this ‘fact’ is one of the industry’s ‘great myths’ – so why are Pfizer not being honest with the public?

“Pfizer’s claims serve nothing but to highlight our broken research and development (R&D) system; they claim they spend a billion pounds on R&D for one medicine, but they don’t tell you how they arrived at that figure. Pfizer are happy to tell us that it costs a billion pounds for R&D, but they don’t tell us what their contribution is. The reality is that tax payers foot much of the R&D bill through the funding and hard work that universities and government-funded laboratories do in actually discovering the compounds that are turned into blockbuster drugs.

“Companies like Pfizer who claim they’re in the business of R&D are really only buying smaller companies with blockbuster drugs to make profit, while shutting their R&D facilities – like the anti-infective R&D unit in the UK – and ignoring the development of drugs we really need. Pfizer’s approach to business, mirrored by many in the pharmaceutical industry today, contributes to the fact that we are on the verge of having no antibiotics left that can treat bacterial infections and there are no approved treatments or vaccines for diseases like Ebola. 

“Pfizer makes nearly £12 million a day in sales off the pneumonia vaccine alone, yet continue to price the vaccine out of reach for many developing countries, where almost a million kids die from the disease every year. Pfizer is about to post its latest earnings that are likely to show continued sky-high revenues –  we don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to make the vaccine available to all developing countries for US$5 per child. 

“Instead of spending money on misleading ad campaigns, Pfizer could save more kids’ lives by slashing the price of the pneumonia vaccine, and we call on the company again to drop the price.” 

- Dr Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director, MSF Access Campaign.

MSF is campaigning for Pfizer and GSK to lower the price of the pneumococcal vaccine to $5 per child (currently the lowest price is just under $10 per child) through its ‘A Fair Shot’ campaign.


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