The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Science Yields to Profit

Feb 20, 2023

Humira is one of the most sold drugs in the world, used to treat arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other autoimmune conditions.

This drug is the result of research carried out over decades by biologists around the world. The scientists who developed it were part of a global network of researchers. They read each other’s papers, present with each other at conferences, and collaborate with each other at universities across the globe.

In the 1990s, a lab in Cambridge, England was the first to develop a way to make an artificial immune system that was able to replicate human antibodies. This English lab then got a German company, BASF Pharma, to test and then market the drug that came out of this research. This was what would become Humira. But neither the English government nor Cambridge got the patent for this drug; BASF Pharma did. Then in 2001, the company that is now Abbvie bought BASF Pharma for 6.9 billion dollars and got the Humira patent.

Abbvie’s patent was supposed to expire in 2016, allowing other companies to make similar drugs, which would lower the price. But North Chicago-based Abbvie has used one trick after another to keep its patent, all with the cooperation of U.S. patent law. This has allowed them to raise the price again and again: today, treatment with Humira costs $80,000 a year. And according to a report in the New York Times, Abbvie has made 114 billion dollars from Humira just since it blocked the expiration of its patent in 2016!

The advancement of humanity’s understanding into how biology works has made “wonder drugs” like Humira possible. Humanity’s collective advances could serve us all. But instead, this capitalist system is organized to turn every advance into one more mechanism for capitalist parasites to rip off sick people and suck more wealth out of the world’s governments.