EDITION 83: June - August 2017

BIG PHARMA - The Real Drug Problem

Jerry Brownstein
When people talk about the major pharmaceutical companies of the world they use the phrase ‘Big Pharma’... and these entities certainly are ‘Big’. Last year their total revenue was about 1.2 trillion euros... €1,200,000,000,000! It’s a huge number, and to give you some perspective, that is three times as much as the total annual spending by the entire Spanish government. Given the size of Big Pharma and its presence in our lives, it is important to ask two questions: 1) is it right for an industry to make such an obscene amount of money from people’s illnesses and 2) are these companies really dedicated to keeping people healthy.

Before we get too deeply into this discussion, it is important to note that many pharmaceutical drugs have been extremely beneficial in saving and improving people’s lives. The discovery of antibiotics is perhaps the prime example. It is hard for us to believe today, but simple bacterial infections would often kill or seriously injure a large percentage of the population. Antibiotics ended that scourge (though we are now diluting their effectiveness by over-prescribing and giving too many to our feed animals). Many other drugs have also helped to heal and sustain us, and there are dedicated scientists working every day to find new cures. But there is also a cancer eating away at the very heart of this industry, and this is why Big Pharma has come under scrutiny.

The pharmaceutical companies are corporations and, by definition, their only goal is to make money to enrich their stockholders. The way that a corporation makes money is by having a steady stream of customers who pay a profitable price for their goods or services. The ‘customers’ of Big Pharma are sick people. So the best thing for these corporations is to have a lot of sick people paying a hefty price for their pills and processes. Their goal is not health and wellness... just the opposite. A population of healthy people would be a disaster for them. No sick people = no ‘customers’ = no profits = no corporation. What makes these companies thrive is keeping people perpetually sick so that they take as many drugs as possible. The company does not want people to die... that would mean the loss of a customer. They just want you to stay sick enough so that you keep buying their drugs. So how do they implement this perverse business plan?

The first step is to get most of the doctors on their side. Doctors recommend and write the prescriptions, and the vast majority of people do what their doctor tells them. So if Big Pharma controls the doctors then they control the patients (their ‘customers). This control starts in medical school. The companies donate millions to these schools in order to have influence on how the doctors are trained. As a result, the average doctor comes out of medical school knowing a lot about what drugs to prescribe, and very little if anything about nutrition and other ways of staying healthy. Remember, Big Pharma does not want a healthy population, so the medical professionals are trained to manage sickness... not to promote health.

This influence continues after medical school as most of the post-school training that doctors receive is promoted by Big Pharma. They regularly send to all doctors and hospitals their information about the latest drugs and what conditions to prescribe them for. The companies also invite doctors to conferences, which are really expensive holidays that feature even more drug propaganda. In addition, doctors in private practice are constantly visited by agents of the drug companies who give them free samples along with more information about the latest drugs.

All of this gets the doctors on their side pushing the pills, but how do they keep people perpetually sick enough to continue asking for help? Big Pharma has several ways to accomplish this. First of all, the drugs that they give us do not treat the causes of illness, they merely cover up the symptoms. The patients (customers) may feel a bit better for a short while, but the illness is still there... so they always need another pill... or shot. On top of that the drugs all carry with them a long list of potential side effects that are actually new illnesses. It’s a vicious cycle: the drug gives you temporary relief from the symptoms of your first sickness, but taking the drug for a while gives you another sickness... and then another. What does the doctor do about these new illnesses? He tells you to take more drugs... with more side effects... and more potential illnesses... and on and on... No wonder grandma takes five different pills every day!

Another way that Big Pharma keeps their customers hooked is through deceptive testing and advertising. The perfect example of this is a class of drugs called statins - medications that reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood. It was once thought that high cholesterol was one of the prime causes of heart disease, so statins were invented to lower the level in people who had previous heart problems. But this was not good enough for Big Pharma. They put pressure on the various medical associations to continually expand the number of people who were told that they needed to reduce their cholesterol. First it was if your level was over 250; then it went down to 225... to 200. Now it is even lower and in many places these drugs are even recommended for children. Statins have become the biggest money makers in the history of pharmaceuticals with millions of people hooked on them for life... and yet they do not work.

Over the past 10 years numerous studies have proven that cholesterol does not cause heart attacks. Not only that, but statin drugs have very serious side effects when used long term. So the cholesterol scare and the massive use of statins has no basis in fact... but most people (including doctors) still believe it. This is because the public has been thoroughly brainwashed on the subject, and these new studies have been repressed by Big Pharma. This is just one glaring example of the lengths that these companies will go to protect their profits... with no regard for the lives of their patients/customers.

Another problem is misleading research. The Big Pharma companies actually pay for most of the drug research, and often they do not report the studies that do not support their drugs. Even research that appears to look good is often deceptive. In one such study, 1,000 sick people were given the drug and 1,000 were given a fake pill. Two of the people taking the drug died, while three of the people taking the fake pill died. In other words almost no one died whether they took the drug or not. Yet the drug was advertised as being “50% more effective at saving lives!” Yes, 3 is 50% more than 2 but... the truth is that less than one tenth of 1% died in either case... statistically that is almost zero. This kind of false advertising is sent to busy doctors who do not have time to read the details of the studies so they accept the headline: “50% more effective!”

It all comes down to the fact that our health should not be treated as a for-profit business. Every day millions of competent, well-intentioned people go to work as doctors, nurses, researchers, hospital staff, etc... The vast majority of them are dedicated to making life better for those who are ill, but unfortunately they are pawns in a corrupt system. The goal of our health care system should not be to make money for the drug companies. This only leads to the perverse situation that we have now: Big Pharma wants everyone to take a lot of drugs every day for the rest of their lives. Curing people is the exact opposite of their business model. If a cure for cancer was discovered tomorrow these companies would lose trillions of euros overnight as they would no longer have the revenue from costly cancer treatments. Their very reason for existence is to make money, so it is understandable that they will not allow true cures to be found. This is the insanity at the core of our health care system - its goal is profits not health. It’s time to wake up and see how we can move away from a system designed to manage sickness for profit, and move toward one that is dedicated to keeping us as healthy as possible whilst healing those who become ill. •

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