How Satire helps debunking Big Pharma’s lies

#WeWontRest from the perspective of pbpie
The original #WeWontRest Campaign

The new social media campaign by EFPIA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, called #WeWontRest has now gotten a much needed satirical counterpart. The so-called “pbpie”, or “Profit Based Pharmaceutical Industry in Europe”, takes the piss out of Pharma — and helps to explain the tragedy behind today’s biomedical research and development landscape.

Why are drug prices so high?

10 million people die every year from diseases for which treatment already exists. Approximately 2 billion people in the world do not have access to essential medicines that should be readily available to them. Why is that?

Because pharmaceutical corporations are privately owned and share one primary motive — to maximise shareholder profit. Innovation is ultimately not the top priority for private industry unless it pays well.

This is the very straight forward answer you get from consulting the website of the London-based NGO “ActUp”.

And indeed, as Health Action International points out:

“The global pharmaceutical and biotech R&D expenditure in 2013 was US$51.6 billion, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Meanwhile, that same year, the pharmaceutical industry spent US$90 billion on marketing — twice its R&D expenditure.”
The Top 10 in Pharma and their spending on Marketing vs R&D. Data from 2013. Source:

What motivates industry?

Do you want to better understand the incentive mechanisms behind drug development? Try the game Pharmadness and become a pharmaceutical CEO yourself!


Often it is said that the current model for Research and Development has no alternatives. This is not true. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) has mapped out existing and proposed alternative approaches for biomedical R&D across the world. The result: Currently there are 49 active initiatives exploring alternatives. Read more and explore the data here:

And…what now?

Altogether, there is no value in critizising the industry for what it is: profit-driven. One can’t blame a tree for being a tree. However, we can and should ask for change in how biomedical research and development is being done on a broader scale. A first step is to understand the downsides and shortcomings of the current system. The satirical “Profit Based Pharmaceutical Industry in Europe” does just that!