At first glance it may seem that the problems of global warming and high drug prices are not related to each other, except for the fact that both of them make a negative impact on people’s health. But, in practice, they are closely interconnected.
It is obvious that global warming is the problem that affects all the spheres of people’s lives: from environmental safety to affordability of products and health.
First of all, climate changes lead to floods, wildfires, dust storms and other natural disasters that put lives of people exposed at risk. And their consequences, like water or soil pollution increase the risk of intoxication, infections and long-term adverse health consequences.
But there are also other dangers that are not so evident, for example, gradual temperature increases or drawdowns of water levels. Such changes can decrease the productivity of agricultural lands and even lead to mass yield losses. Keeping up with those climate changes requires huge investments, and there are millions of individual farmers and even large businesses that cannot afford to introduce innovations required. As a result, they lose profits and consumers face problems with access to products, due to deficiency and price increases. Naturally, undernourishment, as well as vitamin and mineral gaps, can cause multiple health problems.
Another danger that can sneak under the radar is the direct negative impact of weather changes on people’s health. Even slight increases in average temperatures may lead to a rise in prevalence of varied health problems: from kidney diseases to blood tension jumps and heart problems. Certainly, untypical heat can cause flare-ups of chronic diseases and conditions as well.
Since consequences of global warming increase the risk and prevalence of varied health problems, the demand for the corresponding medications rises as well. That provides manufacturers with additional income.
Besides, due to the fact that heat contributes to the spread of infections, most countries have to pay more attention to preventative measures, i.e. to promote immunization and to include new vaccines in national protocols. Naturally, that requires buying more vaccines, which also contributes to pharma profits.
Also, increases in prevalence of diseases require finding new treatment solutions. That means that pharma companies need to invest in researching, developing and testing, but that results in extra income as well.
To start with, climate changes promote rises in drug prices, due to increases in demand for certain products. Certainly, that factor affects markets without price regulation in the first place. The most obvious example of such a market is the USA. In this country, drug manufacturers are allowed to rise prices as high as customers agree to pay. And the overwhelming majority of pharma companies take the most out of that opportunity. As a result, drug prices in the USA are the highest in the world. More to the point, the difference in prices is shocking. If to compare prices at US pharmacies and those in other high-income countries, it becomes apparent that Americans overpay about 50% for medications on average. And that difference can even increase, due to global warming. However, climate changes are likely to influence prices on the markets with governmental regulation as well.
Another factor that contributes to price rises is the introduction of new environmental requirements to manufacturing processes. It may sound surprising, but the production of medications is one of the key sources of greenhouse gases. Besides, factories producing medicines are one of the major sources of water and soil pollution. In fact, pharma businesses both contribute to ecological problems, including global warming, and make profits out of their consequences.
It is crucial to note that today the problem of unbearable drug prices affects billions of people all around the world ― both in developing and in prospering countries. For example, in the USA, the percentage of adults who cannot afford medications prescribed or needed is about 25%. That is very high, especially if to take into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of US citizens have insurance. Certainly, in low-income countries, the situation is much worse. And it seems that it is likely to get even more complicated and threatening over time. If people cannot cope with existing drug expenses, how will they deal with further drug rises or new health problems associated with climate changes?
However, it is essential to keep in mind that, despite the focus on maximization of profits, pharma businesses actually save people’s lives. They both manufacture products that help to prevent and solve health problems and make a significant contribution to the development of medicine. Specialists working for such companies are constantly involved in invention of new drugs and improvement of existing ones.
As you can see, environmental problems are not the only negative consequence associated with global warming. The potential impact of this process on people’s health and wellbeing can be equally disastrous. So, this situation requires taking decisive and urgent steps.