Big, Bad Pharma: An Unnecessary Evil

Big Pharma, or the pharmaceutical industry’s giant corporations, have earned record profits, falsified clinical trial data and corrupted the healthcare industry according to many industry critics including a recent report posted on[1] The industry’s story parallels the history of other corporate monopolies such as Big Oil, the Railroad Industry, Big Agriculture, banking interests and other industrial giants. In fact, one of the primary founders of privatized health care–the Rockefeller family–has been accused of multiple monopolistic and ethical lapses in banking and other industries. Big Pharma financed many of the medical advances made since the industrial revolution, but instead of serving humanitarian purposes, the goals have always been to grab power and generate revenue.

That’s why healthcare costs in the United States are the highest in the world–twice as high as Canada, which is number 2 on the list–and more than the next 10 combined. Americans pay exorbitant prices for drugs that people in other countries can buy at fractions of U.S. costs. Big Pharma protects its market by falsifying clinical evidence, glossing over the dangerous side effects of many drugs, promoting unapproved treatments and marketing drugs directly to consumers who don’t know enough to make informed decisions. These companies suggest in their advertising that drugs are panaceas that promote relief from pain, pleasure, peace of mind, love, happiness and sexual fulfillment while taking the drugs actually causes side effects, deaths, addiction, mental dependence, dangerous interactions with other drugs and a host of other problems. Meanwhile, Big Pharma receives these benefits:

  • Media profits for the top pharmaceutical companies of $17.5 billion in 2013
  • Profit of three-quarters of a trillion dollars for the top 11 companies in the previous decade
  • Enough money to influence politicians and prevent unwanted oversight and legislative reform
  • Resources to prolong, hinder and settle litigation based on malpractice and illegal and unethical business and marketing practices

This is not the kind of medicine that the country needs, and the only hope for getting control of spiraling medical costs lies in eliminating the influence and practices of Big Pharma. The industry is no longer needed to research new cures, test drugs and develop orphan medications. Advances in knowledge and technology offer better returns at lower costs, which is clearly demonstrated by the lower costs that people in other countries pay for drugs.

New Ways of Generating Technological and Medical Advances

Even a report from Price-Waterhouse-Coopers, an ally of big business, criticizes Big Pharma’s stable output and traditional bureaucratic practices in the face of technological advances that can accelerate medical developments and research while lowering costs.[2] The major pharmaceutical companies stand to lose their monopolies by adopting more agile approaches because companies with fewer resources can imitate these methods and even outperform the prevailing pharmaceutical management culture that relies on classic cultural, mental and marketing strategies that often amount to bribing physicians to use their products.

Big Pharma Fails to Meet Modern Standards of Transparency and Ethics

A Forbes report takes issues with Big Pharma practices such as hiding or minimizing side effects, recommending that people use drugs for unapproved purposes, fudging clinical trial data and virtually paying doctors to prescribe their more expensive drugs instead of perfectly adequate generic versions.[3] Despite increased oversight and requirements for disclosing payments made to doctors, Big Pharma continues to get around the law by providing free food, junkets and other favors to medical staffs as bribes for prescribing the right drugs.

Bad Pharma’s Bad Karma Resembles Mafia Practices

Physicians often don’t have any recourse but to rely on the information that’s reported in respected medical journals, which is often exaggerated, falsified or light on contraindications. Big Pharma runs direct-to-consumer ads that target hypochondriacs, unsophisticated consumers and patients who simply don’t have any medical knowledge. For example, the industry promoted anti-cholesterol treatments based on the 2004 cholesterol guidelines that resulted in 90 percent of doctors prescribing statin drugs.[4] The report from likened the pharmaceutical industry’s practices to those employed by organized crime.

Simple logic shows that all the resources of the gigantic pharmaceutical companies not only can’t guarantee that drugs work effectively but also are used deliberately to obfuscate clinical trial results, hide dangerous side effects and stifle competitors at home and abroad through litigation, patent challenges and other less savory business practices. Many drugs that Big Pharma shepherded through FDA approval–drugs like Vioxx, Fen Phen, Celebrex and Zohydro–killed hundreds of people before they were removed from pharmacy shelves. The medical industry and consumers no longer need Big Pharma or its inherent evils. Small, independent researchers, University research departments, private laboratories, government studies and the experiences of hospitals and medical clinics–working autonomously–can deliver better results faster than Big Pharma ever could or would unless those results guaranteed huge profits and virtual marketing monopolies.