The power to cure illness is arguably one of the single greatest accomplishments we, as humans, can lay claim to. Thousands of years ago, medicine might have been given freely out of the need to prolong lifespans and advance the general cause of the human race. It was human nature.
But human nature also compels us to extract the value inherent in tools like medicine. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S. healthcare system, where huge drug-making businesses are pushing the ethical boundaries further and further. How far, you ask? Check out these examples.
Cooking the Books
When you visit the doctor and are prescribed medication, you are placing your trust in both the doctor and the medicine prescribed. We have been taught to have faith in the decisions our medical professionals make, but what would happen if medicine was allowed onto the market unregulated?
The potential consequences of such an act are troubling, which is why we have clinical trials — tests designed to vet new drugs and identify any potential side effects. So then, who should perform these tests: the government or the people who make the drugs and make a living by selling them?
If you said the government, that’s how it used to be. These days, big pharma companies commission their own private studies when new drugs are launched.
Pharmaceutical companies fund six times more clinical trials than the government, and big pharma companies are only too happy to sweeten the pot for testers who can produce favorable results.
Constant Legal Battles
Produce enough drugs and medical devices, and something will eventually go wrong. You would think that with the copious amounts of money their products bring in, pharmaceutical companies would be willing to shed a little skin for the overall good of helping people live better lives. That’s what medicine is about, right?
Perhaps not. Companies like Pfizer and Merck wade through hundreds of cases each year. Many are dismissed, and while the settlement numbers may look impressive, the fact is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to try all the lawsuits quickly enough to make things frightening for big pharma.
What’s more, special laws exist to protect drug companies. That’s what happens when you allow lobbyists, congress members and powerful sales reps from big pharma to buddy up. Hence, they can continue producing shoddy products unchecked.
What’s in a Name?
You might be aware that “generic” variants of many popular drugs are sold under different names, but did you know that even brand-name medication gets repackaged as a different product to drive sales up?
For example, Prozac was once re-branded as Sarafem because Eli Lilly, who makes the popular antidepressant, wanted customers to think they were getting something specific to combat premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Anti-depressant Wellbutrin has also been rebranded as Zyban, a drug targeted at smoking cessation.
Calling the Kettle Black
And you can bet that nowadays, the big pharma companies have everything to do with the war against the distribution of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. The war on marijuana made more sense decades ago when we didn’t understand the drug’s effect. But now, big pharma needs marijuana to be illegal so they can sell products that help “treat” conditions associated with marijuana use.
Major arguments against pot have been refuted. The “gateway drug” accusation no longer holds water. As a medicine, marijuana has actually been shown to provide excellent relief from pain and anxiety. And there are millions of private growing operations out there, all threatening big pharma’s bottom line. That’s why you can expect to see the war on pot continue.
Nothing Like It in the World
America’s healthcare system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Pharmaceutical companies are part of the reason that a nation as rich as the USA can’t effectively care for all of its people.
Capitalism and the free market are intended to promote good deals for consumers, but when the producers become so powerful that there is no longer transparency into where goods like medicine are coming from, something has gone wrong.
It’s time to hold these companies accountable. They owe it to the American people — after all, we’re the ones who made them rich.
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