Legal Drugs in America
It is interesting that one of the most immoral businesses in America is labeled a legal enterprise. I am talking about the seamy side of the medical industry, which is pushing legal drugs on to people, whether they need them or not, whether they will help medically or not. It is not about health. It is all about money. Lots of money.
There are between 40 and 50 million chronically ill people in America. Being chronically ill starts when your doctor takes away all hope for your return to good health, by telling you, “Sorry, Sam, but there’s nothing we can do for you. Here are 6 prescriptions. They make you feel better. They won’t cure you. And, bye the way, Sam, you will have to take them till the day you die. Give my best to your wife.”
Sam has now fallen into the black hole of the health industry, from where he will never return. He is condemned to spend thousands of dollars a month, forever, so the pharmaceutical industry can get bigger and richer, as the population grows and ages.
And if there is no disease for a drug that Big Pharma has invented, they’ll invent that disease in order to sell you their products. Incredible, but true.
See and read the story below. If you are healthy, it will make you sick. My grandmother lived to the age of 94, and never went to a doctor. She always said, “It’s a doctor’s job to find something wrong with you. Don’t go there.”
A three part video series which will give you a total picture of the problem.
Is Your Doctor on Big Pharma’s Payroll?
By Loren Berlin
Medical device and pharmaceutical companies are gearing up for a big change in the way they deal with their most important middlemen: doctors. Beginning in 2013, they’ll be required to report every dime they pay out to physicians in speaking fees, consulting, research, meals and business travel to the federal government. You say you didn’t know your doctor was on a pharmaceutical company’s payroll? Neither did I — until this morning, when I searched a new database created by ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization, and discovered that one of mine has received money from two drug companies.
Doctors benefiting from relationships with drug or medical device companies is nothing new. Remember all the pens and stuffed animals and other branded tchotchkes that used to be scattered about doctors’ offices? All those trinkets began disappearing a few years ago, after the pharmaceutical industry in 2009 voluntarily agreed to stop producing them, an effort to “try to counter the impression that gifts to doctors are intended to unduly influence medicine,” reports The New York Times.
“But some critics said the code did not go far enough to address the influence of drug marketing on the practice of medicine,”
the newspaper goes on to say. “The guidelines, for example, still permit drug makers to underwrite free lunches for doctors and their staffs or to sponsor dinners for doctors at restaurants, as long as the meals are accompanied by educational presentations.”
It’s these “educational presentations” that are now gaining attention. According to ProPublica, “Eight pharmaceutical companies, including the nation’s three largest, doled out more than $220 million last year to promotional speakers for their products.” The slides used in the presentations are created by the drug and medical device companies, and these speakers are doctors that the companies pay to make presentations to other doctors about the benefits of various products.
And they can make serious money doing it. Nam Dang, a cancer specialist and speaker for drug manufacturer Cephalon (CEPH), raked in $131,250 in 2009 alone. Zale Bernstein, a Buffalo hematologist, banked $177,800 on the Cephalon circuit in 2010, and that’s excluding the additional $35,000 for travel. Gerald M. Sacks, a Santa Monica, Calif., pain specialist, earned just shy of $500,000 in the last two years for his speaking and consulting gigs with four companies. And again, that excludes whatever he received in reimbursement for travel costs and meals.
“We continue to believe in the benefits and value that educational programs led by physicians provide to patient care,” Eli Lilly (LLY) spokesman J. Scott MacGregor wrote in an email to ProPublica. But others are concerned that paying doctors to promote products creates a conflict of interest in which a patient’s best interests may come second to a doctor’s bank account.
The Hard Sell for the Wrong Drugs
Tracy Weber, one of the ProPublica reporters leading the organization’s investigation, explains. “A lot of brand name drugs are not only super-expensive, but also have more severe side effects than older drugs. So it’s important to ask if there is something safer or cheaper? Another drug I should be using? Or non-drug alternatives? Especially with devices. It’s good to know if your physician is speaking on behalf of the company that makes a hip implant or heart device. Are they prescribing it based more on their relationship with the manufacturer rather than what’s best for you?”
Weber is surprised by which doctors have earned the most money lecturing to other physicians. “When we started putting this together, we thought the highest paid, the top speakers, would be really brilliant physicians with lots of research in their specialty area. Many of the highest paid speakers had none of that, very little or no published research, no affiliation with academic centers. So their speakers are chosen for some other reason than their expertise.”
Of course, there are legitimate reasons a doctor would receive funding from a medical device company or drug manufacturer. These companies offer critical research dollars to physicians to help finance laboratory space, staff, and other costs associated with medical science. And while it’s easy to hear that a physician is on the company payroll and immediately assume the worst, Weber says that many of the doctors “feel very strongly that they are providing a valuable education service by talking about drugs they believe in.” Consider, for example, doctors in rural areas who may have limited access to cutting-edge medical developments. They speakers can help to keep those doctors informed.
So what are consumers to make of ProPublica’s database of doctors and the payments they’ve received? Well, its a straightforward search engine, so if you’re at all curious, you should check it out: Simply enter your doctor’s last name and state. And if something does pop up, as it did with my doctor, take a look to see how the funds are classified. My doctor received almost $25,000, but the vast majority of it was research money. Given that my doctor works at a major research institution, and has publicly acknowledged this financing previously, I decided I was comfortable with it. But if you’re unsure how you feel, just ask your doctor for a few details about the relationship. As Weber says: “If your doctor doesn’t want to talk to you about it, I think that’s something worth noting.”
If you have a long, drawn-out, incurable but treatable disease, it’s unfortunate for you but great for pharmaceutical companies. While you’re suffering indefinitely, you’re also buying expensive pharmaceutical drugs to make the disease “manageable.”
“Managing” diseases is the trend in mainstream medicine, and it’s the main message that pharmaceutical companies and the media market to consumers. “You have a mental disorder? That’s okay. You can live a normal life, if you take these pills every day.”
According to “AIDS: A Second Opinion” authors Gary Null and James Feast, the profits “stack up better” for pharmaceutical companies when people have to take treatments indefinitely for an incurable disease. HIV, for example, is a relative goldmine, since HIV-positive people have to take drug “cocktails” each day even before they develop symptomatic AIDS. Then, the profits add up even more after these people develop full-blown AIDS because they have to take drugs to treat opportunistic infections in addition to their regular drug cocktail.
Many people believe that pharmaceutical companies’ hunger for profits triumphs over their desire to genuinely help the public, and that this blinded concern for profit above all has shaped — and continues to shape — mainstream medicine as we know it. The bottom line is simple: As Life Extension Magazine puts it, “Marketing issues frequently outweigh medical science in drug company decisions.”
This has implications that are more serious than one might initially think, especially considering the heavy role that pharmaceutical companies play in mainstream medicine. “Deep Healing” author Dr. Emmette Miller writes, “We have to remember that most medical researchin this country is financed by pharmaceutical companies who are looking for new drugs they can produce and sell.”
Now, things were not always this way. In his book, “Overdosed America,” Dr. John Abramson describes the shift of medical research from the academic to the commercial sphere: “As the function of medical research in our society has been transformed from a fundamentally academic and scientific activity to a fundamentally commercial activity, the context in which the research is done has similarly changed: First in universities funded primarily by public sources, then in universities funded primarily by commercial sources, then by independent for-profit research organizations contracting directly with drug companies. And most recently, the three largest advertising agencies, Omnicom, Interpublic and WPP, have bought or invested in the for-profit companies that perform clinical trials.” In my view, advertising agencies having financial ties to the companies that perform clinical trials – companies that are supposed to conduct objective research – is blatant conflict of interest; yet it’s the basis of most mainstream medical research in the United States. In fact, according to Dr. Abramson, in the year 2000, only one-third of all medical research was performed in universities and academic medical centers.
Since, according to these and other sources, drug companies predominantly fund medical research, scientists have almost no choice but to mainly focus their time and effort on the most profitable, but not necessarily the most effective, treatments. Though an herb, which by its very nature cannot be patented, may treat and possibly even cure a disease, drug companies may nevertheless not fund research or marketing for it, leaving the general public largely ignorant of the herb’s benefits. Mainstream medicine largely dismisses vitamins and minerals in the same manner as herbs.
Furthermore, research bias often continues into the doctor’s office. As Gary Null writes in his Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition, “One report published in Fact magazine speculates that the principle reason vitamin C is not commonly prescribed is that it is not as profitable as those syrups and pills your doctor dispenses.”
Stealing medicine from nature
However, this doesn’t mean that pharmaceutical companies ignore plants and other natural medicines altogether; it’s actually quite the opposite. According to Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady, approximately one-third of all pharmaceuticals are derived from plants’ active ingredients. Though companies cannot patent naturalplants in their whole form, they can patent plants’ individual ingredients after a long, painstaking process of breaking down the plant into its components, isolating active ingredients and then claiming to have “discovered” these natural ingredients. However, this system, though profitable for drug companies, has a downside that Hadady reveals: “Many times the active ingredient does not work as well as the entire plant. According to tests done in Germany, Saint John’s Wort, the entire herb, kills the AIDS virus in the test tube, while hypericum, the isolated active ingredient, does not.” In other words, though the bottom line is simple, it means that this society is in a very dangerous predicament indeed.
This horrific state of modern medicine is a uniquely American phenomenon, according to “Innocent Casualties” author Elaine Feuer. She writes, “Because the U.S. is the only major industrialized nation that does not regulate the prices or profits of drug companies, prescription drugs generally cost 25 to 40 percent more than in other countries.” In fact, drug companies rely on American sales for the bulk of their profits, even though many of their products are marketed worldwide, says “Natural Alternatives to Drugs” author Dr. Michael T. Murray.
Though this is bad for the average American consumer, it’s great for pharmaceutical companies. According to Mike Fillon’s book, “Ephedra Fact and Fiction,” the global pharmaceutical market earned $364 billion in 2001, making it the world’s most profitable stock market sector. Fillon writes that more than half of this revenue is from the United States alone, so although pharmaceuticals are more expensive for the American consumer, Americans still buy more prescription drugs than any other nation.
Hawking for Big Pharma
Now, at this point, you’re probably wondering about the role the U.S. government plays in all this. In “Death by Prescription,” Ray D. Strand writes, “The FDA is actually listening and catering to the industry’s desires.” According to Strand, the FDA facilitates the drug-approval process. Many people attribute the FDA’s bias against herbs and other natural medicine to the agency’s close “friendship” with the pharmaceutical industry, but it seems that they can’t agree about the level of corruption. According to American Medical Publishing’s book, “Prescription Medicines, Side Effects and Natural Alternatives,” “The government is also part of the problem because it does not have the resources or the political will to do more about the dangers of prescription drugs. Also, powerful members of the American government, from the President on down, are all lobbied heavily by the cash rich drug companies.”
In order for mainstream medicine to reach the level of effectiveness that it can and should attain, the inner workings of the medical community must change, starting with the pharmaceutical companies’ hold on the government agencies that are supposed to protect American consumers. As Burton Goldberg writes in “Alternative Medicine,” “To realize effective health care with cost reduction requires unlocking the strangulation hold of the pharmaceutical companies, the American Medical Association (AMA) and … the FDA on all forms of fully effective, low-cost alternative, complementary, integrative, holistic medicine.” Until then, mainstream medicine will remain the same, and that’s the last thing American consumers need. It’s time to put concern for public health, medicine and genuine science over corporate profits.