There are a lot of new readers to Better Body Journal because of a recent story that got promoted to the front page of Digg yesterday. First off, welcome. Second off, I’d like to give a quick background on this site before we piss any more people off. Well, actually, that’s what we do here. We piss people off. We get a little rude and crude because we’re tired of the “It’s not my fault,” blame-someone-else mentality that many Americans have developed when it comes their own lives and health.
A lot of people are taking the comments personally. Sorry if we hit a nerve. Like we tried to say in the previous article, we know that there are legitimate purposes for many, if not all, prescription drugs. We just want to see many of them being used as a last resort after exhausting all of the common sense, holistic techniques to treat an ailment.
By the way, we are not doctors. We are not qualified to give medical advice. The views and opinions expressed on this site are just that: views and opinions. On that note, we are not Scientologists or conspiracy theorists either.
That said, let us continue our attack on the business that is pharmaceuticals. Please read the “Killing You Legally” article first to understand the context of what is written below.
First and foremost, I’d really like to apologize to the actual Restless Leg Syndrome sufferers out there. In the previous article I treated RLS like a made up disease, which obviously it is not. There are most certainly people out there that suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome where it affects their daily lives. I don’t mean to pick only on RLS, but that is the way it came out in the previous article.
But 1 in 10 Americans? Really? How come we never heard of this disease 10 years ago? Now, all of the sudden, every tenth person I know is a sufferer of Restless Leg Syndrome? You should be weary of any disease and its cure that is promoted so heavily, where it affects so many people out of nowhere.
There is a huge conflict of interest here when the company that produces the drug to treat RLS runs the main information portal while providing “non-biased” research to prove their point. Take from it what you will, but I truly doubt these studies were non-biased. When millions of dollars are involved, there is no such thing as independent research.
The pharmaceutical industry is huge in the scope of its work. There are drugs out there that treat anything from allergies all the way to yeast infections. There is very good work being done by very good people in the field of medicine, the foot soldiers and the pioneers. The progress of medicine in America and the world has been incredible. Cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and many more are life-threatening diseases that affect us in one way or another, whether we suffer from the disease itself, or a close family member or friend.
I believe in capitalism and free markets. I don’t think health care and medicine should be in the hands of government. Not a very liberal point of view, but that’s just my opinion. For the record, I’ve never seen Sicko, not that it should matter.
But somewhere medicine stopped being about the common good. The “free market” of medicine is not free at all. It can’t be free when the there are more than 2 pharmaceutical lobbyists for every 1 member of Congress. It can’t be free when the pharmaceutical industry spends more than any other industry on its lobbying efforts. ($758 million since 1998 as of 2005)(1)
And this is my problem with the pharmaceutical industry, and it should be yours. This is the point I was trying to make in the previous article. There is plenty of good work being done in medicine, but it is being exploited and abused by those in control. Like when a drug to treat severe depression is marketed to the general public, so it can hook those with low self-esteem or those going through a rough patch in their lives to a habit forming pill. Promoting the common good has taken a backseat promoting a company’s bottom line. From USA Today(2):
Over the years those lobbyists have been very successful, demonstrating that the industry knows politics as well as it knows chemistry. Drug companies won coverage for prescription drugs under Medicare in 2003 while blocking the government from negotiating prices downward. They have so far kept out imports of cheaper medicines from Canada and other countries. And they have protected a system that uses company fees to speed the drug-approval process.
“They win more than they should,” says James Love, an industry critic who is director of the non-profit Consumer Project on Technology. “The one thing they have going for them is money.”
There is a conflict of interest when a government agency whose purpose is make sure pharmaceutical drugs are “safe and effective” before they hit the market, has advisers from that very industry. A USA Today article (3) reports that 92% of FDA advisory committee meetings from January 1998 to June 2000 had at least one member with a financial conflict of interest. 55% of meetings had half of the FDA advisers in those meetings with a financial conflict of interest. A more staggering fact is that 33% had a financial conflict when dealing with the fate of a specific drug.
When so few people will affect the lives of so many, it is a crime that their decisions are allowed to be influenced by their stake in a company. The very people who are hired by the FDA to debate, test, and finally approve these drugs are the very people working for the drug makers.
Advisers can be paid up to $50,000 as a consultant for a drug company before there is a “conflict of interest” according to the FDA. Private jets paid for by drug companies whisk politicians and lawmakers to and from closed meetings, events, and the capital. There is a lot of money involved. Your health and safety are footnotes.
Who am I going to blame for the sky-high drug prices, excessive promotion of unnecessary drugs that end up being not-so-safe, and rising death toll from prescription drugs? Everyone. Let’s begin.
Lobbying is nothing new in Washington. Gun makers, cigarette companies, oil companies, farmers and so on. They all do it. Every industry has stake in the laws our government makes. But it is a disgusting practice that needs to be stopped or regulated better if you want real change in this country, no matter which candidate you support.
The public controls the government. That is the way it should be. But who really controls it? Sure, we the people have the illusion we control it, but decisions in Washington are heavily influenced by private interest. There is no getting around that.
Pfizer spent $16.90 billion on marketing in 2004, and only $7.68 billion on research and development. GlaxoSmithKline spent $12.93 on marketing, and $5.20 billion on research and development. Merck spent $7.35 billion on marketing and $4 billion on research and development. (4)
Just like the previous article, I still want to put a lot of blame on the Pharmaceutical companies. Imagine if those numbers were reversed. Rather than 2:1 spending on marketing to R&D, what if pharmaceutical companies had a cap on marketing spend, or a minimum spend on research and development? Would that change anything? Who knows. It’s a pipe dream anyway. When big Pharma spends more on lobbying that any other industry, no law or act will ever be put into place that negatively affects their profits. Never.
Does the pharmaceutical industry want cheap drugs on the market? Of course not. Arbitrarily high prices are the reason their profits are so big. The barriers to entry for new drugs are so high that true, free-market competition is not possible. These barriers are put into place by the companies that make up the drug industry lobby. The industry functions very similar to a cartel.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Wake up America. If you’ve read this article and the last, you have been warned. Pharmaceutical companies want you to take their pills whether you need them or not. If you need them and they work for you, thank the pioneers, thinkers, and scientists. There are honest in people in the pharmaceutical industry that want to rid the world of disease as much as you and I do.
But for the average Joe, think about the pills you think you need. The playing field is not level because we are bombarded with billions of dollars worth of advertising every year, convinced into thinking that we need expensive pills for all that ails us.
Try the holistic approach before you succumb to the lure of prescription pills. Do you suffer from depression because you’re over weight? Spend a year getting in shape and you will change your life for the better. Still suffering? Then maybe you have a real problem.
Do you suffer from heartburn? Take a look at your diet. Is it fully comprised of foods that would cause heartburn? Yes, the commercials say that heartburn is caused by both the foods we eat and genetics. Eliminate the “foods that cause heartburn” part first, and then talk to your doctor about the pill.
Always talk to your doctor before taking the holistic approach. We must state once again that this website not written by doctors. If you are on medication, talk to your doctor about ways you can get off of it safely if that really is your ultimate goal. Before going on medication, talk to your doctor about available natural cures and approaches, and what else you can do before you absolutely have to get on a prescription.
I truly believe in the ability to cure ourselves for many of the problems we have. I’ve heard and read too many stories of people turning their lives around by getting in shape and staying in shape, or changing their lifestyle for the better to eliminate the stress and heartache in their lives.
On that note, be weary of holistic scammers too. Not everything can be cured holistically. While the “natural cures and holistic treatment industry” pales in comparison to the racket that the pharmaceutical company has in place, there are still enough people waiting to rip you off. Be weary of anything that is promoted by scam artists or that is “too good to be true.”
1.) Medical News Today: USA Today Looks at Prescription Drug Industry’s Lobbying Efforts
2.) USA Today: Drugmakers go furthest to sway Congress
3.) USA Today: FDA Advisers Tied To Industry
4.) The Center for Public Integrity: How the pharmaceutical industry gets its way in Washington
Under the Influence – 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft Reports On Drug Lobbyists’ Role in Passing Bill That Keeps Drug Prices High