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Big Pharma

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Why do you think some doctors in America hand out medicines like candy?  Why else?  Money!  And where does the money come from?  Insurance companies? Well, sometimes, but don't forget the drug companies that pay off the physician shills who push their pills.

Who do you think is behind the ads that tell you to “ask your doctor about…” These are ads paid for by Big Pharma promoting their drugs. The good news is that most physicians still go into medicine for the right reasons and genuinely want to make a positive difference with impact.

Senator Bernie Sanders said recently, “Americans should not have to pay higher prices for the exact same drugs than our Canadian neighbors simply because Congress is bought and paid for by the powerful pharmaceutical industry.”  As examples, he cited Nexium (for heartburn) at $214 in Canada versus $736 in the United States, Crestor (for high cholesterol) at $160 from Canada versus $730 in the United States, Celebrex (for arthritis) at $895 in the US versus $212 in Canada, and Advair (for asthma and COPD) at $980 in the US versus $212 in Canada.  The list goes on!

The power in setting the price for drugs is skewed toward drug manufacturers. Unlike countries where universal health coverage is in place, the negotiating is left to individual care providers rather than being in the hand of a large, publicly funded buyer that’s able to negotiate since it purchases most of the drugs.

The costs of bringing a drug into the US market are higher than elsewhere partially because of marketing expenses. The United States is one of only two countries (the other being New Zealand) that allows direct-to-consumer advertisement of prescription drugs, while in almost every other country promotion is limited to medical professionals. This raises the already steep marketing cost of drug manufacturers. Robert Yates, former World Health Organization senior health economist states, “the amount pharmaceutical companies spend on marketing is massively more than on research and development.”

Further, pharmaceutical companies can count on tens of billions of dollars in revenue, at higher margins than most other sectors, so they make the most of the opportunity to advertise directly to the customer. With more advertising come more requests of specific brand names (“Ask your doctor about…”) higher volumes of prescriptions, dangerous over-medication, and price hikes.

Unfortunately, the rules that apply to pharmaceuticals do not apply to nutritional supplements. Though theoretically nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA, the language describing benefits of supplements, comparisons to pharmalogics, and references to scientific literature, are severely limited. More about this in a subsequent article. Stay tuned.

Spencer Thornton, M.D.