Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thank you, drug companies!!!

I know there has been a lot of mudslinging and accusation over this issue, but I would like to take a few minutes to take a different tack.

The normal reaction of people who do good things for society varies greatly. Some are praised as heroes in the media, especially if it's a marketable story. Others are completely ignored in the press, as if they had done nothing at all. Even in the arguably more pure agency of word of mouth, some seemed to be ignored and others are talked up to the point of celebrity. The difference is caused by many various factors.

The one I would like to talk about is motive. Deeds are praised when we know that someone has extended effort with no hope of gain--even more so when done regardless of personal loss. But, when someone does something noble and receives something in return for that deed, it's as if a button is pushed in the human heart. We begin to question motives and make snap judgments.

I can't help but think that there is something to that feeling, at least on the individual level. Haven't you ever known the person who always who does a lot of good deeds and gets a lot of good results, but behind it all is always the nagging ulterior? The person easily becomes an ointment-stealing Judas who talks of good deeds, but is only concerned about the end. I know this is too harsh a judgment, but I speak of natural reaction, not objective justice.

In reality, many of the things that have been done throughout history have been for a desired end. (Brilliant observation, I know.) Most of the time it has been for a good end and--sometimes--it has also been for the good of the person that performed the deed. I could use my own marriage as an example. I've always laughed to myself when people have corrected this commonly-stated definition of marriage: give and take. They say with disgust, "No! It should be 'give and give.'" I'm sorry, but while that may be nice, a relationship without receiving is no relationship at all.

I will maintain, however, that motive is a reasonable measurement for the character behind an individual's actions. I do not believe the same standard is practical for the actions of a large group, industry, or corporation. For as many people as it takes to accomplish tasks on an immense project there is nearly always a motive of profit of some type.

You will hear a lot of talk about the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. People do research and even spin wild conspiracy theories on the practices and profits of the drug companies. The profit margins--comparing cost of development to price at purchase--are high. I know because these things are widely publicized.

I am not trying to justify all of these things. There are some good arguments to be made. This is apparent to all because they are made all day long. What I'm trying to say is this:

Thank you, Merck, for helping my wife through the side effects of chemotherapy. Thank you, Glaxo SmithKline, for supplying a pill that helped us make it through one of our darkest days following surgery. Thank you, Pfizer, even though we never used any of your drugs last year! You've done some amazing things for some desperate people.

In the future I may choose to discuss the other side of this issue and the culpability of the insurance companies. For now I just want to be one of the rare voices saying, "Thank you."

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