Friday, February 27, 2009

Pause for Thought

As I was taking my medication today, I decided to actually account for the quantity of medication that was given to me and consequently tally the relevant accounts. The final tally was 572 tablets spanning over eight different kinds of medication which amounts to SGD$22.16. That is by any standards, extremely affordable.

This compels one to ponder - if medicine is actually that affordable, why are people in the Third World countries dying because of the lack of it? Even in a economic downturn, for any developed country to fork out a few hundred thousand dollars to save a nation would not be much of a pinch for the country's coffers. If that is the case, then why is it so hard for these countries to obtain medication or for developed countries to lend a hand?

One of the major and absolutely avoidable obstacles that these developing countries face would be that of intellectual property and patent rights. The pharmaceutical companies in the developed world are reluctant to relinquish profit as they insist that the developing countries are not allowed to manufacture a cheaper version of the medication but must import it with payment for the patent rights. Such a worry, while not unfounded as it may undermine years of research and a great economic loss, is insignificant as compared to the real need of those unfortunate people. We should truly stop attaching an economic benefit or value to everything for it is a dehumanising effect. What if these people were your own loved ones and all they need is a couple of tablets which will determine whether they live or die... will you do the accounts of how much more money you would lose if a cheaper version of the drug is manufactured? Of course not, you will probably hand them those two tablets for free! So why are we being so calculative?

Yet, another major obstacle that plagues these people would be that of a corrupt government running the country as financial aid to these countries are being systematically siphoned off to their personal coffers. With regards to this problem, it would take a lot of international effort and resolution to clamp down on these corrupt officials while other legal implications such as a country's personal integrity would be a speed bump on the road to reformation. For such an unfortunate situation, the only thing we can do is to let go and let God.

Besides all that, I would implore my gentle readers to consider this, $22.16 for 572 tablets in which a couple of tablets for each person would go a long way. If our governments were to fork out $30, that meagre sum would actually save 286 people! How can we as humans, sit by and let death wield its sword? What is wrong with us?

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