TagBig Pharma

The Black Hole in The Cost of Healthcare: Big Pharma and Transparency

It’s no secret that Big Pharma has been providing doctors with special perks in return for prescribing their products. This has been going on for ages. But to get a better grip on why the costs of healthcare have been increasing dramatically we need to understand about the massive networks that Big Pharma is involved in. Believe it or not, Big Pharma is connected to everything. The AMA, the FDA, the financial markets/big business, the insurance industry, law and politics; these are all affected by Big Pharma.

Recently it was reported that there are more Americans addicted to prescription drugs than illegal drugs. An article in The New York Times stated that ‘An analysis of autopsies in 2007 released this week by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission found that the rate of deaths caused by prescription drugs was three times the rate of deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined.’ That’s a pretty hefty number. I know quite a few people who became addicted to prescription drugs. Some said tranquilizers and painkillers were harder to quit than illegal drugs. Prescription pain killers have become the ‘new heroin’, and are increasingly becoming a major problem in the school system.

Not only are the doctors getting ‘perks’ from the drug companies, but the professors and the research facilities of major universities have been the recipient of ‘special benefits’ as well. Recently ‘three influential psychiatrists from Harvard Medical School seem to have been caught with their hands in the drug-laced cookie jar, and now they’re in big trouble. Two days after it was alleged that the three doctors failed to report a collective $4.2 million in payments from pharmaceutical companies, Harvard and the affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital have launched an investigation into the doctors’ behavior.’ Big Pharma = Big Money.

Let me just state for the record that I think research and development in pharmaceuticals is an important factor in saving lives. Not all prescription drugs are addictive or deadly. Many are necessary to keep people alive. But let me also state that many side effects from certain drugs are not discovered until many years later. This can be a ‘Catch-22’. Also more money is spent on advertising than on R&D. In an article by Science Daily it was reported that ‘the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent 24.4% of the sales dollar on promotion, versus 13.4% for research and development, as a percentage of US domestic sales of US$235.4 billion.’ Instead of prolonging or enhancing life, getting the word out about their products is of priority.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is proposing legislation for reporting any payments over $500 paid by pharmaceutical companies to doctors or academic research to be on public record. ‘If they are being paid, it ought to be reported,’ said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley is also looking at the money drug companies pay doctors for academic research. He is investigating some 20 top medical schools – including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Cincinnati, for under-reporting the income top researchers are getting from the drug industry. Grassley wants to learn if the money is influencing research.”

I think transparency on this is issue is way overdue. When the absurd ‘war on illegal drugs’ becomes part of a cover for the pharmaceutical companies’ desire to line their pockets, then something needs to be done.

(References: Discover Magazine-“Psychiatrists Who Hid Big Pharma Money Now Face Inquiry”, New York Times-“Legal Drugs Kill Far More Than Illegal”, Science Daily-“Big Pharma Spends More on Advertising Than Research and Development, Study Finds”, Weeks MD “Are Perks Compromising MD Ethics?”, The Providence Journal- “CVS Trial: Celona Tells of Becoming Point Man For CVS” , Campus Progress-” A New Kind Of Addiction”, Wired-“Prescription Drugs: Rock’s New Coke and Heroin?” and a h/t to Dr. Peter Rost’s Pharma Law Blog.)

VA Testing Drugs on War Veterans

“The government is testing drugs with severe side effects like psychosis and suicidal behavior on hundreds of military veterans, using small cash payments to attract patients into medical experiments that often target distressed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Washington Times/ABC News investigation has found.

In one such experiment involving the controversial anti-smoking drug Chantix, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took three months to alert its patients about severe mental side effects. The warning did not arrive until after one of the veterans taking the drug had suffered a psychotic episode that ended in a near lethal confrontation with police.”

(via Washington Times)

Bill Moyers’ Interview with Melody Petersen, Author of “Our Daily Meds”

“One of the other issues we’re going to be hearing a lot about in the next few months is the high cost of prescription drugs. Most of us can testify to the fact that drugs save lives. When I had heart surgery fourteen years ago, my own life was saved by a skilled surgical team, a caring wife, and some remarkable drugs. But drugs are costly -and it seems their price keeps rising. The sticker shock has sent many people -especially the elderly – across the border to Mexico and Canada in pursuit of affordable medicine.

And a report this week says that because of the cost, many middle class baby boomers are trying to do without. The pharmaceutical companies say you get what you pay for, they say it’s not cheap to develop new medicines. But in journalism as in medicine, it’s always helpful to get a second opinion. So if the cost of your daily meds leaves you feeling sad and depressed, unable to sleep or eat, I have a prescription for you – a consultation with the journalist Melody Petersen, who has written a powerful new book about what ails us.”

(via Bill Moyers Journal)

In Lies We Trust: The CIA, Hollywood and Bioterrorism

With the all the current heated debates going on about the links between vaccinations and autism, I found this film to be thought provoking. Let me state for the record that I am “neutral” on this issue. There are just too many conflicting factors to consider when looking at both sides. So, I’m posting a link to this film along with a site focused on articles defending vaccines. If nothing else, this film will make you THINK about some issues you may have not thought much about.

“This feature length documentary about medical madness, cloaked in bioterrorism preparedness, will awaken the brain dead. It exposes health officials, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for conducting a ‘War of Terror’ that is killing millions of unwitting Americans.

[..] This monumental film exposes the agents and agencies behind: Hollywood films and the media creating a profitable culture of bioterror; the ‘War on Terrorism’ used to control populations; the most lucrative war in history-the ‘War on Cancer;’ the onslaught of dozens of new immunological diseases and deadly flus; the ‘War on AIDS’ triggered by contaminated vaccines; the anthrax mailings resulting in restricted freedoms, and sales of toxic drugs, deadly vaccines, and more.”

(“In Lies We Trust: The CIA, Hollywood and Bioterrorism” via Google Video)

(Counter-argument: Concerned about Vaccines? site)

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