Wednesday, May 09, 2007

This is Your Nation on Drugs

The US Senate just scored a major victory for America’s drug dealers.

I’m not talking about the “dope boys” pushing nickels and dimes on the corner. I’m talking about the nation’s REAL drug dealers. The big ballers - the major pharmaceutical companies who raked in over $600 billion in global prescription drug spending in 2006.

On May 9, the Senate passed a bill that, according to The New York Times,

…gives the Food and Drug Administration sweeping new power to police drug safety, order changes in drug labels, regulate advertising and restrict the use and distribution of medicines found to pose serious risks to consumers.

While the measure takes small steps in an effort to ease consumer fears about the FDA’s questionable drug approval methods, the bill renewed the government’s deal with the devil that allows drug companies to pay fees that speed up new drug testing, review and approval. The Times quotes Public Citizen’s Health Research Group director Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe as saying, “The bill’s improvements in F.D.A. authority are important but inadequate. The bill would increase collaboration between the agency and the drug industry, by increasing the agency’s reliance on user fees to finance drug reviews.”

The bill also fails to legalize the importation of lower cost drugs from Canada or to cap the rising cost of medicine. In a society that dopes up on legal and illegal substances of many stripes, drug dealers will have a stronger grip on American bodies and wallets thanks to our politicians.

Many Americans don’t realize drug companies can pay to have their products approved more quickly. Since FDA scientists realize that big pharmaceutical companies pay the bills, approval is easier to come by these days. This is why we see medications coming on the market before they have been adequately tested.

But instead of forcing the FDA to pull a drug from the market when it is found to be harmful to patients as is current law, the Senate’s new bill allows the FDA to “require a manufacturer to adopt a ‘risk evaluation and mitigation strategy’ for a drug that posed serious risks.” That simply means that dangerous drugs could remain on the market longer than in the past, even if they are deemed to be a threat to consumers.

In a related story, the Times reports
that two of the world’s biggest drug dealers, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson, pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to doctors to prescribe anemia drugs that studies now show may be harmful to patients. These payments are legal, but certainly they should be considered a conflict of interest. With physicians receiving payments to push specific meds, and the FDA being paid to approve new drugs, is there any wonder that the threat to patients has increased.

This bill would also provide financial incentives for drug companies to test their products on children. Two-thirds of the medications currently prescribed to children have never been studied for pediatric use. Now the filthy rich pharmaceutical industry will be offered “financial incentives” simply to study the effects of its drugs on our children - something they should have been doing all along.

Americans won’t see an end to the skyrocketing price of prescriptions anytime soon. The high cost of medication is one of the main reasons the richest nation in the world ranks 29th in life expectancy among all countries. America’s lack of a universal healthcare program with comprehensive drug coverage benefits no one but the for-profit healthcare industry and the public officials who do their bidding.

Big drug dealers and insurance companies hold the nation’s health and economy hostage, and it seems our doctors and politicians are complicit in the crime.

The New York Times


Blogger Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I agree with many of your concerns here, but of course not all of them. Rather than discuss those issues, let me instead shift to what I believe is the real problem here, and the only possible real solution.

Namely: Americans believing that toxic drugs will improve their health, rather than nourishing foods, exercise, and natural medicines. No attempt to address human health issues with toxic pharmaceutical substances can possibly work; any attempt will necessarily fail. Americans have bought into a health and medical paradigm that is far to expensive to provide everyone, but the good news is: this paradigm is incorrect, and the one that works is far less expensive.

Poor people who want the best possible health can already obtain it simply by choosing to inform themselves, to purchase and consume nourishing foods, avoid junk, and for the love of god, exercise. Yes, 100% juice costs more than Pepsi, and real cheese costs more than velveeta, but the price differential between real food and junk food is tiny compared to the cost of diabetes treatments and bypass surgery.

And although an insured person can purchase a bottle of toxic high blood pressure pharmaceuticals for only $5 at the walmart checkout line, the real cost -- buried in the $2,000/year per person annual premium -- is far greater than some herbal tablets that Whole Foods sells for $15 / bottle (not covered by the insurance).

Poor people, by using their brains and making smart choices, can obtain for themselves much better health than most wealthy people who eat twinkies instead of Whole Foods cup cakes, who drink Budwieser instead of Guinness, who use iceberg lettuce instead of baby spinach leaves, and who sit in the stands at their kid's soccer game without taking a few laps around the field during half time.

As long as the vast majority of Americans believe that good health comes from mammograms (fancy name for shooting cancer-causing x-rays through a woman's chest) instead of cage-free eggs and organic butter, we will have a "health care crises". We can no more find a way to provide every American with triple-bypass surgeries than we can 2,000 square foot houses, flat screen TVs, and Honda Accords.

May 10, 2007 10:58 AM  

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