Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A pharmaceutical company (or drug company) is a company licensed to discover, develop, market and distribute drugs.
Most large pharmaceutical companies were founded in the 20th century, and derive their market share from a few well-marketing preparations. Examples are simvastatin (Zocor®), which was marketed successfully for twenty years by Merck & Co. Some of the reason for this is that the process of development, clinical trials and marketing is expensive and takes a long time. After this the company will usually be granted a patent for the drug for about 20 years. Drugs are initially sold at a price higher than after competition is introduced. When the patent for the drug runs out, a generic is usually created by a competing company and released, causing the price to drop markedly.
Recently, some large companies have received a fair share of criticism. Examples are:
- Accusations of forging or suppressing clinical trial results to maximise uptake of some medications;
- Accusations of manipulating the market by showering doctors with free gifts, trips and other services;
- Criticism for keeping the price of AIDS medication artificially high, limiting patients in the Third World in their therapeutic possibilities. Pharmaceutical companies on their side claim that lowering the price will not generate enough profits and can not be justified after their high development costs. Developing countries want to be able to produce and import cheap generic AIDS drugs for their relatively poor population, but since these drugs are generally developed by first world countries like the US, this is not without controversy and it has been claimed that selling cheap AIDS drugs to developing countries might cause pharmaceutical companies to focus their research on other, more profitable areas. In March 2001 South Africa was sued by 41 pharmaceutical companies for their Medicines Act that allowed for import and generic production of cheap AIDS drugs, the case was later dropped after protest around the world.
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