Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Physician Oath: Do No Harm Unless the Price is Right.

The phrases: "too much of a good thing" and "everything in moderation", echo in the minds of most; however, knowing when we've crossed the line into "too much of a good thing", is not always so clear. The emergence of the pharmaceutical industry at the turn of the 20th century is a blatant example of how "too much of a good thing" has created a monster.

At first, drugs transformed the quality of our lives, by not only prolonging our life span, but allowing us to do so as much healthier individuals.  It's no surprise that demand for this "good thing" continued to increase, and the industry reaped the rewards of ever increasing profits.   One-hundred years later, the result is that the pharmaceutical industry has transformed into Big Pharma (Big-Ph), the most profitable industry in the world.

But, to be sure, Big-Ph has no plans of discouraging "too much of a good thing"; moreover, has no plans of discouraging our demand the "good thing".  Why?  Well, greed for one.  Big-Ph made $180 billion on 12 drugs alone, and paid $2.3 billion in fines,  so, one can safely assume a little fraud and corruption runs through its industrial veins.  So, what's a little deceit and trickery? How are a few fatal side-effects, huge kickbacks paid to doctors, off-label marketing and/or, illegal promotion of pharmaceuticals going to hurt bottom line anyone? Right? After all, the New York Times reported the $2.3 billion in fines is a drop in the bucket: less than three weeks of Pfizer’s sales. 

Big Ph used their enormous wealth/power buying up influence and co-opting any institution that stands in the way of its profit, including the U.S. Congress. In fact, Big Ph has surpassed the defense industry in fraud against the government.

A new study by the watchdog group Public Citizen has found that the drug industry has become the biggest defrauder of the federal government, surpassing the defense industry. Public Citizen found that the drug industry paid out nearly $20 billion in penalties over the past two decades for violations of the False Claims Act. More than half of the industry’s fines were paid by just four companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough.
Dr. Dan Carlat , who was once on the industry's payroll, now  blogs about the drug industry. He has tracked the changes, and concluded that from the mid to late 1990s, the "blockbuster" drug (making at least $1 billion/ year on one drug) culture exploded throughout the industry.

Think about this: 60-70% of the money made in the cancer industry is based on kickbacks to doctors.  What does that tell you?   Aside from the fact that the cancer industry has no interest in what's best for cancer patients, it's also very possible that your doctor has sold you -  the patient he swore from doing harm - out.  In 2009 alone, the drug companies paid doctors $200 million to doctors in the U.S.  Is it any wonder why it seems our health care industry is so dedicated to surgery and the heavy use of drugs? Is it any wonder why alternative remedies, often less painful and less expensive are cast aside? And even worse, suppressed completely?

Still, so many of us continue to put our blind faith in these institutions. Why? Because we've been conditioned to do so, even when there is no doubt that the FDA, the CDC, the AMA, the APA, and even our personal physicians, whom we implicitly trust regarding what we eat, take as medicine, and what we give to our children in the form of vaccines are, to a certain degree, compromised by the "profit before patients" principle that rules our health care system.



Next up: Mycoplasma: What you don't know can kill you.

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