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My advice for tackling the BMAT essay is to practice writing them to time in the space available. You only have a small space to write in so you need to be very disciplined. It is too easy to get carried away with a point and write too much and not leave yourself enough space to make a balanced argument with lots of different points. I think that time is not an issue so I would write your essay in bullet point in rough before writing it on the paper [you get rough paper in the exam].

I would usually use a the simple format of a three paragraph essay. The first paragraph exploring the question, the second exploring other points and the third paragraph summing up or providing a conclusion. However it is important to be flexible.

This is a question that came up in the BMAT last year and an answer I did.My answer was much too long. I would have to cut it down substantially to fit into the space. I have left it as it is to give you some ideas.

There is money to be made by not curing a disease. 

We spend a lot of money on our health services.The NHS is the biggest employer in this country. The NHS budget is about £120 billion per annum , this is about 8-12% of GNP per annum for most European countries. In the US it is over 18% of GNP per annum. In US today anyone in workforce works about 6- 7 weeks a year to create resources they will then ‘consume’ as health care. Pharmaceutical companies have grown to be the immensely successful giants that they are by providing treatments for long term conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Long term conditions generate a lot of money for the payment of health workers and for drug companies e.g The treatment of diabetes costs over 10 billion [10% of the NHS budget]a year in the UK. Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money on new treatments for diabetes because the financial rewards are so great.

It is unethical and extremely rare for doctors and scientists to withhold ‘cures’ in order to carry on treating the patient. I do not believe conspiracy theories that ‘big pharma’ has cures for conditions but does not want to release them. However when scientists apply for research grants pharmaceutical companies with their enormous R and D budgets will look with more interest at research which is likely to lead to profitable drugs rather than cures which would limit the need for their drugs. The need to generate a profit for share holders may be counter productive  in the quest for cure. In my opinion there it is sad but probable that businesses will focus on treatment rather than cures. Pharmaceutical companies have provided major breakthroughs in the past [eg Sir James Black discovered B blockers and then Tagamet] but over reliance will be detrimental. We face a world threatened by increasing  antibiotic resistance.  Dame Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer as called on governments to fund research as there is not much incentive for drug companies to fund antibiotics that are just usually taken for a few days while a new blood pressure pill may be taken continuously every day by a patient. Dame Sally said action was needed to overcome this “market failure” and stated that this should be taken up by the ‘Innovative Medicines Initiative’ – an EU funded body whose aim is to promote the development of new medicines. Bill Gates has poured a lot of money into the research of drugs which can cure diseases in the third world where drug companies would not be able to recoup costs. He has also supported GAVI a charity which funds vaccine research to prevent illnesses in the first place. The new rota virus vaccine which kills many children in the developing world has been funded in this way.

We need charities, university research departments and governments to also carry out research, particularly into cures because over reliance on pharmaceutical companies would probably mean more money is spent on research into treatments rather cures.

More BMAT essays next week