Monday, May 30, 2011

Big Pharma and Jimmy the Pot Dealer

Last night, I was watching television when an ad came on from one of the big pharmaceutical companies regarding one of the latest new diseases, Peripheral Artery Disease or P.A.D. Here's a link that describes it.

Ten years ago, I had never heard of P.A.D. Basically, P.A.D. is just another symptom of aging. So why has it become such a big deal now? Well, because big pharma found a drug for it, that's why.  They are marketing it directly to you and instilling some new found fear.

I have often thought that the only difference between legal and illegal drug dealers is the government and the FDA. Illegal drugs tend to be more dangerous- although many legal drugs like Phen-Phen have killed thousands of people prematurely and every week there seems to be a new class action lawsuit versus various prescription drugs advertised on television.

Illegal drug dealers make gobs of money with profits margins well beyond 1000% percent. They market their drugs to unconscious people who have difficulty dealing with life without altering their state of consciousness. Getting people addicted, repeat customers, is the key to the success of  illegal drug dealers. The downside risks are jail and death. But apparently those risks are acceptable to people in the illegal drug trade like Jimmy the neighborhood pot dealer.

Big pharma, or the legal drug dealers, also make profit margins well beyond 1000%. Their profit margins are justified by their alleged "research and development" costs. They are given "patent protection" by the government which is just a euphemism for stealing from patients. They have an extensive lobbying network which has been quite successful at convincing lawmakers to enrich their businesses at the expense of patients. They market their drugs to people who fear death and will do anything possible to extend their lives. Big pharma gouges the hell out of people in countries like the U.S. for their drugs, yet sells the same drugs in places like Mexico for 1/10th the price. That way American consumers and health plans can subsidize the health needs of places like Mexico.

What is the difference between being physically addicted to drugs or mentally addicted to drugs? Answer- there is no difference. If you believe you need something to survive you will use it. If a doctor told you that your chances of survival increase greatly with Abraxane, you will most likely use Abraxane. If you are well off and insured, your doctor might not even mention the generic Taxol- which is much cheaper. Ask yourself, why do doctors prescribe expensive drugs like Abraxane when the cheaper and generic drug Taxol is just as effective?  Read this...

Although that article is 5 years old, you'll note that over 20,000 people were prescribed Abraxane as opposed to Taxol. It's always about money and ripping off the public legally. If unscrupulous people can find a way to legally steal from people who do not know any better- they do. And in that way...big pharma is no different than your neighborhood pot dealer. Not one bit. One has the blessing of government and the other does not.

I find it absolutely fascinating that the government removed tobacco and alcohol (at least for awhile) from television advertising yet allows big pharma to sell every kind of drug that they can think of. They market directly to people watching TV so that they can run to their physicians and get "hooked" up.  Big pharma creates a need or uses fear to sell us everything from sleeping pills, anti depression psychotropics, sexual stimulants, or drugs for P.A.D. Sometimes they just sell us hope.

Should big pharma be allowed to directly market drugs to the public? To reach out to as many people as possible, to create a need in us to buy their product, to addict us or make us repeat customers, and to gouge us for as much money as humanly possible. One method of delivery uses pushers and mules- the other uses pharmaceutical reps and doctors.

In the end I suppose, it's just about choices. I like the reassurance of knowing that the FDA  at least tries to keep the consuming public as safe as possible. What I find deplorable is the willingness of big pharma to exploit human frailty and to offer hope of relief as long as you can afford their outrageous prices. There is something very sick about people that would take advantage of the injured and dying in such a way. Or the mentally or emotionally ill. And as much as I have always supported free markets and capitalism- robbing people of their last remaining money at a time in their lives when they may not have the capacity to earn any more money just kind of makes me sick. Or transferring the outrageous costs of prescriptions to our insurance pools and forcing the rest of us to pay. It's just atrocious. Life, I think, should not be contingent on whether you have enough money to keep it.

When I go to the doctor, afraid to die, and he prescribes Abraxane- I don't question it. I don't want to die. Even if it costs me everything I have. That sure as hell doesn't make it right. With Jimmy the neighborhood pot dealer, at least it seems like the stakes aren't so dire and he isn't trying to bankrupt me. I have a choice. For some odd reason, sometimes I have more respect for guys like Jimmy in Oakland Raiders T-shirts  than I do for pharmaceutical reps with ties on. Odd, I know.


davecydell said...

"Sometimes they just sell us hope."
One of the many reasons why there will be no solution found to controlling health care costs, barring a dictatorial one.
Capitalism can't put a price on hope.

davecydell said...

Sudden news flash from south of the border:

"On Monday, Ramon Almonte, the Guerrero state police chief, said he will ask the federal congress to make it easier for common citizens to get permits for weapons to defend themselves."

Shane Atwell said...

This is retarded. Pharma makes 1000% profit?!? Patent protection is theft from patients? wtf?

Anonymous said...

Patent law is protectionism and NOT capitalism. Patent law goes way back in our history. There may be some truth to the R&D bullshit but I would think a patent for two years ought to take care of that. Seventeen years is ridiculous.

Brian said...


One of the most closely guarded secrets of big pharma is their atrocious profit margins. They are beyond 1000% very often. They say they need that much profit to recover their R and D expenses so the USG gives them 20 year patent protection so nobody can copy the compound.

The problem with 20y patent protection is that it is beyond greedy. Five years and they would recover all costs. But the USG gives them a 20 year monopoly, never reviews its policies, and certainly doesn't do it on a case by case basis. If the people in this country knew the profit margins pharma is making they'd be sick.

This a.m. I heard a company announce a new anti biotic- a ten day course of it costs 2800 dollars and of course it is patent protected. When the CEO was asked how they priced it- they said the risks outweigh the costs.

Brian said...

Shane I grabbed this link. It's a story on how viagra's profit margins are 2000% higher than cocaine. Protected of course.