European Fiscal Collapse and Counterfeit Meds in Africa
One of the projects I’ve been working on for several years is the issue of counterfeit drugs in Africa and other under-developed worlds. A couple of years ago, I met with a former VP for Africa from GSK, who related one of GSK’s sting operations in Kenya: They followed a large shipment of AIDS meds that were unloaded at the airport in Nairobi, where bad guys exchanged them for counterfeit meds at a hangar at the airport, and the very same airplane went back to Europe with the real AIDS meds, to be sold on “the black market”. After the meeting, I thought of a question that hadn’t occurred to me in real time:
Why would there be a “black market” in Europe, which has socialized medicine?
European governments provide free health care to everybody… don’t they?
At a recent meeting, I received a tiny little hint of a Clue from a friend who is a senior executive with a large European pharmaceutical company… and who journalists would certainly describe as a reliable source.
The Clue: his company is owed about €900M from Italy and Spain and hasn’t been paid in 3 ½ years; Greece has been “paying” with Greek Bonds. Evidently there’s a law requiring this company to continue to supply these medicines, even though these governments have long since stopped paying for the goods.
So … how has society responded to this situation?
Given that companies are required to provide product w/o getting paid, are they likely to fill every “order” in a timely manner? Would you think some shipments might get delayed… perhaps not keep up w/ growing demand? The first law of Milton Friedman Economics would predict that when a government forces product to be sold unprofitably, after some period of time, shortages will be created.
What happens when the government induces a shortage of medicines?
If you had a patient in your office and knew that there was a shortage of medicines at the government-supplied pharmacy, but knew also that your good friend - call him Lime - had a reliable supply, wouldn’t you be morally bound to introduce your patient to Lime?
While I can’t prove it, given the lack of payment by Italy, Spain, and Greece, it seems likely that a black market for medicines should develop there – and will exist wherever there’s a health care system that can’t pay its bills or refuses to supply a product to its patients.
I won’t argue that this explains why AIDS is so prevalent in Africa, which hosts 54 of the most corrupt governments on earth. But the situation does beg the question:
Which is worse:
1) incredibly corrupt government typical of Africa or
2) incredibly incompetent government typical of Southern Europe?
Either way, the combination reminds me of that famous black and white movie, The Third Man, set in post war Italy when its society was even more chaotic…
… only the nemesis in that movie, Lime, has been replaced by unnamed government bureaucrats in Italy, Spain and Greece.