There is money to be made by not curing a disease. [An example from last year’s BMAT] 

Closeup of Pills

A lot of money is spent on health care and many profit from this. The NHS is the biggest employer in this country . The NHS £110 billion per annum, we spend 8 of our GNP on health this is even higher in the US; 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. A cure for diabetes would put an end to this.

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. The need to generate a profit for share holders may be counter productive  in the quest for cure. In my opinion 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 on pharmaceutical companies may 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.

Conclusion. There is some truth in the title. 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.