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Why Big Pharma is Bad for You!

 

Why Big Pharma is bad for you!

 

 

The companies that make up the pharmaceutical industry are among some of the largest in the world. Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Novartis are three of the larger ones.[1] All of the pharmaceutical companies taken together with their trade and lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical and Researchers of America, are called Big Pharma. In 2014, the top ten big pharmaceutical companies took in $430 billion dollars.[2] That is almost a half-trillion dollars out of a total GDP of $17 trillion, or about 3% of the world’s largest economy.

It has been stated that the pharmaceutical business is responsible for more deaths from preventable disease than those who died in all the wars of mankind combined.[3] How can this be? What are the major problems with Big Pharma?

 

Money, Money and More Money!

In the U.S., drug companies’ profits come mainly from selling prescription drugs. The pricing of big drugs in the U.S. is unregulated and thus Big Pharma can charge whatever they want and believe me they do! But if you are taking any prescription drugs you already know this. This profit motive and the way these companies go about achieving it has become a major source of contention for our society.

Big Pharma is only out to make a buck and this has become a serious problem! Big Pharma has become one mean, lean money machine! They have little concern what their drugs do to humans, nor what they cost! Believe it or not they are one big, bad boogeyman that you don’t want to come into contact with if you can help it. Let us examine further why this is the case!

 

Tunnel Vision/Profit Motive

Tunnel vision is one of the major problems with big Pharma; their sole concern seems to be one of profits, and huge profits at that. It seems that there are no holds barred as far as how they make this profit either. This has become a problem because they no longer are concerned with discovering those drugs that may be more beneficial to our society. Nor are they concerned with how much the drugs cost to those who need them.

 

Overpriced Drugs

What Americans pay for drugs is outlandish compared to other countries. People who take Nexium, a prescription that helps people with acid reflux disease costs $215 on average in the U.S. This is 3.5 times the cost in Switzerland, the next highest charging country for Nexium prescriptions, and almost 10 times more than what Dutch people pay.[4] If you look at the graph below you can see how this is true for most, if not all prescriptions sold here in the U.S. Ask yourself, “Why is it necessary to pay this much for these drugs when other countries don’t?”

 

 

Little Spent on Research

These drug companies spend way more on advertising drugs than they do research.[5] This tunnel vision with profit as the sole motive can also be seen in their desire to buy “likely winners” instead of researching new ones. [6] In 2006 more than 90% of Big Pharma’s total pharmaceutical revenues came from medicines that had been on the market for more than five years.[7] And we wonder why very few new drugs are discovered. Or, why we never find any cures for diseases.

 

No Desire to Cure Diseases

Big Pharma’s overriding concern with making huge profits, and the methods they use to do this have created a biased, dangerous Big Pharma that needs to have some brakes applied before it continues to do damage to the people in our society. Don’t kid yourself, Big Pharma has no desire to cure anyone!  

Why would they when to do such would mean less profit for them? Think about this, we have an entire industry, i.e. Big Pharma whose intrinsic economic interest is to “Obstruct, suppress and discredit any information about the eradication of a disease.”[8]

The pharmaceutical industry is not going to make money by curing anyone. Not when they can make over one trillion dollars from selling drugs for ongoing diseases. The drugs that they sell are meant to relieve symptoms, not cure. There is no profit in curing diseases. This would eradicate the need for people to keep buying drugs. It does not take a genius to figure out where Big Pharma’s interest lies. Rest assured it is not with your or my well-being.

 

Marketing Disease

Advertising is important to any industry trying to sell a product. This is true for Big Pharma too. We are always seeing the latest drug advertised on television, the internet and any other place the drug companies chooses to advertise. The question becomes one of how ethical is it to do this with prescriptions? Should the industry who is supposed to be doing unbiased studies on different drugs be the one creating the ads for it? Are they really presenting the true image of the drug or are they creating a false one to sell the drug? Think about all the fit, beautifully looking actors that appear in these ads? Do you ever really hear their message when they tell you about the side effects of the drug they are advertising? Some think that Big Pharma is creating a need for each of the drugs they have created. They argue that they need to do this in order to make the huge profits they so desire.

 

Disease Mongers

The business of selling prescription drugs based on creating a perceived need is known as disease mongering.” Lynn Payer introduced this term in her book “Disease-Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick” (1992). [9] She questions how many of us really need the drugs that are advertised as quick fixes to anything and everything we experience in life. Or, do we just think we need them because they are presented to us as the “fix” in an ad?

 

Creating a Need--Paxil

We are constantly being bombarded with ads about how we need this drug or that drug. Big Pharma creates a need for different diseases. For example, if you look at Paxil and social anxiety disorder you can see how this “disease” was pretty much created by the drug companies. What the drug does is medicalize a normal experience. It is common to be nervous when meeting new people. But Big Pharma redefined this as abnormal and came up with a name for something that was considered normal. Now it seems that almost everyone you meet has social anxiety disorder and is taking some medication to subdue its affects.

 

Creating a Need—Serafem

Another example of creating diseases so that people can take a pill to “fix” their problem was when Big Pharma reintroduced Prozac as Serafem for premenstrual problems. This medication was to treat the disease PMDD. This new disease was Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder. PMS all of sudden took on a whole different force in women’s lives due to it being exacerbated by the use of birth control pills, synthetic progestin’s and exposure to xeno-estrogens (estrogen-like chemicals) that we are all exposed to a thousand times of over.

It did not take the drugs companies long to jump on the bandwagon and come up with a “newer” better medicine, Serafem, for PMS. Do women know that they are taking Prozac at three times the cost of generic Prozac? Many people in our culture are looking for quick fixes. We don’t look at environmental of lifestyle causes for diseases so we end up not looking for social answers. Believe me Big Pharma is ready to provide you a pill for just about anything.

 

Big Pharma, Physicians and Prescriptions

To sell drugs a doctor must prescribe them, so most of big pharma’s advertising is directed towards physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers. There is a sense of entitlement, “I worked hard and I deserve to be treated nice like the drug company is, and the feeling that we are “all in this together.”[10]

 

Ghostwriting Articles

Another problem with big pharma is that they are now ghostwriting articles for many of the medical journals and they are not representing the true results of the studies done on drugs. Articles are appearing in these journals with prominent doctor’s names but are written by these ghost writers. [11] “The boundaries between academic medicine—medical schools, teaching hospitals, and their faculty—and the pharmaceutical industry have been dissolving since the 1980s, and the important differences between their missions are becoming blurred.” [12] All of the following have suffered as a result: medical education, medical research and clinical practice. It appears that the mission of Big Pharma is to Defraud, Deny and Deliver the drugs. 


Patients are not dumb!

It seems like Big Pharma and physicians think that patients are just a bunch of sheep doing what they are told by their physician. Big Pharma would love this if this were the case because their hold on the medical profession is getting so strong that doctors prescribe those drugs put out by the companies that wine and dine them. Research proves this not to be the case. One study that surveyed over 1,150 adults found the following. [13]

· 41% of patients felt that doctors are more likely to suggest newer, more expensive drugs than older, less expensive ones.

· 50 % feel that doctors don’t think about other available drugs when they prescribed a drug.

· Approximately 70% feel that Big Pharma has too much influence on what doctors prescribe.

· Approximately 47% feel that the goodies Big Pharma gives to doctor’s influences their prescribing of certain drugs.

Although people seem to be aware of what the doctors are up, they know they are getting hoodwinked, do they ever say “no” to a doctor when she/he does something they disagree with? No, they don’t. They bend over like the good “sheeple” they are and accept with a “Yes, doctor” to anything they say. Only a very small percentage of patients have the courage to stand up to their doctor.

 

Direct to Consumer Advertising

This is their bread and butter. Big Pharma has over 100,000 sales reps that go door to door leaving behind branded items such as pens, mouse pads, stethoscopes, notepads etc. to remind doctors, hospitals and patients who they are and what they are selling. You go into any doctor’s office or hospital and you will these branded items doing what they were meant to do by leaving them there, advertising a particular drug put out by a particular drug company. Furthermore, by receiving gifts from companies they are building a relationship with that company which makes them more likely to prescribe their drugs. Many of these drug companies have unrestricted budgets. Add to this that many doctors are disillusioned by the insurance companies and this new Obamacare, that when these sales reps treat them with so much respect, they find it hard not to be swayed by the drug companies’ claims.

 

Mugs, Pens and Stethoscopes Oh My!

The gifts for medical students start about two years before they are ready to see any patients; the farther along they get in their training the gifts start to escalate where they are taken out to dinner and on trips. “My first formal contact with the health care technology industry was the black bag I received from a leading pharmaceutical company when I entered medical school. There were also gifts, such as penlights, notepads, and a multitude of drug samples, all with the pharmaceutical company's name clearly identified on the gift.” [14] One can only imagine what effect this socialization process has on these students. It instills a sense of beholding to these drug companies in such a way that these students are strongly influenced to prescribe their drugs when they start prescribing.

 

Educational Not Marketing

Certain activities by drug companies, if they were called marketing would be illegal, but they are not called illegal because they are called education. For example, it is illegal to give doctors kickbacks, however you can pay the doctor to educate others about a drug or you can pay them to become educated about a drug. One drug salesman states, “You can hide 18 holes of gulf for 50 people under education and during that round of gulf you can give a case of scotch that cost $1,000 each and still have it be education.”[15] The interesting part is that they carefully track what the doctor prescribes before and after each one of these events. Do you seriously think they will continue to serenade those doctors that don’t push their drugs?

 

The use of free Samples

The use of free samples is probably the strongest device that drug representatives have. These samples are usually accompanied by supporting literature aimed at convincing the doctor that it is a safe and effective drug. In 2004 the drug give away was equivalent to $16 billion dollars’ worth of drugs. [16] The three things work in conjunction, consumer advertising, free samples and the doctor who has been prepared by the rep. All three come together to make this specific drug the one of choice, no matter how expensive it is. Research has shown that the more reps meet with doctors the more legitimate they think the drug is and the more likely they are to prescribe more expensive and more inappropriate drugs. [17]

 

Pushing Drugs

Most of their marketing campaign is directed toward physicians since they are the ones who have to prescribe the medications that Big Pharma is pushing. There has been research done by drug companies to show that their drug works. Others who have questioned their results have studied these studies and have found out that these studies have been biased. Research shows that those studies funded by drug companies are more positive than those studies done by an impartial academic source or government.[18] Physicians and other academics are not allowed to look at the evidence that supports the research done on each of these drugs. It is considered a “trade secret” and thus not subject to review. 


Relationship with FDA

It appears that our government has become totally co-opted by Big Pharma. This is what big pharma does with their wealth; they buy influence in congress and co-op those organizations they think will get in their way. It co-ops the congress by contributing heavily to many candidates’ campaigns. Big Pharma has the largest lobby in Washington. Then by controlling congress and the administration it has now become the partner of the FDA. The incentives that we have in our healthcare system are somewhat perverse. 


What is the future?

One company that has taken some positive steps toward their reforming Big Pharma is Smith Glaxo Kline. They are supposed to have a new compensation system in place by the end of this year. It is supposed to be patient focused rather than the number of pills sold. GSK will also take steps to end direct payments to healthcare professionals for speaking engagements, as well as for attendance at medical conferences.

It seems that more and more doctors are also taking an active role in refusing to meet with drug representatives. The American Medical Students Association is trying to get professors to address the question of big Pharma in medical schools. In 1999 Bob Goodman organized the program “No Free Lunch” in an effort to bring awareness to everyone about big Pharma and the dangerous consequences. There are some individuals as well as groups that are out there trying to fight bit pharma. The author of Worst Pills and the organization Public Citizen are two that come readily to mind. Campaigns to fight against the negative effects has had on our society. It is about time we all come more aware of how dangerous Big Pharma is. Isn’t it about time we start saying No to Big Pharma?


Consumer’s Role

I am not sure if we, as consumers, are capable of saying no to Big Pharma. There is a stranglehold that big pharma has on the consumer. This will not end until we do three things:

1. Eliminate the corporate, tyrannical partnership Big Pharma has with the government. The best way to do this is to end government meddling in what people can ingest or put in their bodies. In other words, eliminate the FDA and all laws at all government levels concerning drugs and regulation thereof.

2. Eliminate all “prescription” laws. This would help get rid of the monopolistic practices that doctors with licenses enjoy. By only allowing them to write prescriptions we have basically created a monopoly that prevents anyone else from competing.

3. Halt government and Big Pharma’s ongoing war on supplements and natural products, and, eliminate the prohibition of speech regarding drugs, health and medicine.

It is time that the gun Big Pharma and the government have pointing at our heads be removed! A free market will not exist until this is accomplished!



[1] The twelve largest drug pharmacies include these top three plus Merck, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Abbot Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

[12] http://www.sott.net/article/ 208009-Big-Pharma-Bad-Medicine-How-Corporate-Dollars-Corrupt-Research-and-Education

[17] Ibid.











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