Freedom and Drugs – A Tryptych

Freedom Sculpture

In front of GSK‘s building in Philadelphia is the dramatic Freedom Sculpture by Zenos Frudakis. A drug company, a city, and a sculpture. How do they fit together?

Let’s go chronologically.

In 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia which assured Philadelphia’s place in United States history books to be learned by all elementary school children. This document stated,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,

but in 1776, the noble ideals only applied to some men, and certainly not slaves or women.

So this is the first lesson of this eclectic triptych: Equality, freedom, liberty, independence is a process, not an absolute.

In 1830, John K Smith opened a drug store in Philadelphia. While this may not be an event celebrated like Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and Liberty Bell, Glaxo Smith Klein (GSK) is now one of the five largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The pharmaceutical industry takes the biggest risks on the longest projects of any industry. Costs over one billion dollars, and 10-20 years time frames are typical, and after all of that, failures are common. All this risk and expense allows people to be healthy enough to be concerned about other issues.

So the second lesson of our triptych: The process for equality, freedom, liberty, independence starts after health, which demands risk and long-term investment.

In 2001, the Freedom Sculpture was unveiled in front of the GSK World Headquarters in Philadelphia. This evocative sculpture represents freedom (equality, liberty, independence) as a process and a struggle with a joyous result. However, a closer look at the sculpture reveals the many left behind and even lost – including a the work of a sculptor who died of AIDS, a disease GSK scientists have long made part of their mission.

The final section of this triptych on human rights summarizes the process started with the declaration, and supported by scientists at corporations like by GSK dedicated to improving public health, leading to freedom, but not yet reaching it for all.

Freedom and Drugs, partners in the struggle for human rights.

Bonus: More sculptures.

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Categories: Pharmaceutical Industry | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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