The Demons of the Pharmaceutical Industry
An issue that is seen in America that is extremely important to this generation and has significant leadership challenges with it is the pharmaceutical industry, Big Pharma. Drug companies today are big business focused more on the bottom line instead of the overall well-being of the population. This is not only a key issue today because of the leadership issues associated with it, but because it is something rarely discussed; people are more focused on other issues that are commonly seen such as immigration or institutionalized racism.
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The population not noticing this issue and seeking alternatives keeps feeding the issue and making it worse. However, light was shed on the subject when Hilary Clinton brought up the issue in her run for the Democratic presidential candidacy (Scandal). Some will argue how drug companies use the government to help “Big Pharma’s” agenda (Pharmaceutical). Does Big Pharma sound similar to another drug industry that has been changed? It should- Big Tobacco.
The issue with the pharmaceutical industry is that it is big business with little competition which allows the companies to charge whatever they so choose for the drugs they hold the patent for. There have been countless times where a new drug has been created that can eradicate or at least lessen the effects of a disease that is commonplace, but the drug companies will charge a fortune for it because all they see is dollar signs. This problem does not only happen with new drugs, but it turns out that it is happening with drugs that were around before the FDA. Companies are putting in old medications to go through the FDA’s process of becoming approved and gaining sole access to the drug and selling it for whatever they want. This loophole allows companies to monopolize a plethora of drugs. An example of this is seen with Daraprim. This is a drug that has been around for over sixty years to treat a life threatening parasitic infection. Turing Pharmaceuticals did exactly what was previously mentioned and used the loophole in FDA policy to gain the rights to the drug. “After acquiring the drug, Turing immediately raised the price from $13.50 (U.S.) a tablet to $750.” (Drug price). This was a price increase by 5,000%. The article is showing with actual data and example of how much these companies are out to make a dollar. If these companies were truly out for the betterment of their clients, they would have kept the price or slightly lowered it. They would not have any competition in the market to drive the prices down. Regardless, the drug industry should not be focused on profit margin, but helping the population. They do need to make a profit so that they can continue to create the drugs and pay employees, but they do not need to be profit driven. “[T]heir goal is now to produce patented products to increase income for executives and shareholders, rather than the health of consumers.” (Rosch).
Another problem with the pharmaceutical industry is that the companies encourage patients to go around doctors to get medications as seen with direct advertisements to the patients or by encouraging doctors to prescribe unnecessary tests and prescriptions. The pharmaceutical industry forces doctors to defensively prescribe medications and tests (Rosch). How many times are there commercials for drugs seen on primetime television or someone is told they need a certain test to look for something? Drug companies market themselves to the consumer as some sort of miracle drug, creating unrealistic results for the patients. “Physicians feel pressured by patients who come in asking for these newer, more expensive (but not necessarily, better) medications by name. In a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports, one-fifth of the respondents said they had asked their doctor to prescribe a drug they saw advertised on television or elsewhere: Some 70% of physicians complied with this request.” (Freudlich). There is a very high possibility some of the physicians agreed to prescribe the medication because there are many people that will doctor or pharmacy hop to get the medications they want. Drug companies are pushing doctors to perform more unnecessary tests because they cost a lot and the doctor will get a big reimbursement from the insurance companies. However, it was revealed that tests that require the administration of a radioactive tracer such as a CTT caused around 29,000 unnecessary deaths when all that was needed was as simple as a chest x-ray (Rosch). This shows just how crooked these drug companies are. They are responsible for thousands of deaths because they force doctors to administer drugs that will not benefit patients because they think they need them. They just want the money from the insurance companies.
Another issue is that a clear majority of the population does not know that they have cheaper alternatives to the drugs from these big pharmaceutical companies. Generics are not known about because, unlike Big Pharma, they can not talk to the consumers. Generics keep their prices low because they do not spend money on advertising. “Spending on consumer drug ads reached $5.0 billion last year , according to Nielsen Media Research and Americans see up to 16 hours of drug advertising on television each year.” (Freudlich). It creates a vicious cycle, patients will see these ads and think that nothing can be as good as what was advertised, if they here of alternatives at all. Spending all this money on advertising is exactly like what Big Tobacco did. They advertised and made consumers think they had to have the drug and would emotionally manipulate the audience with cartoon camels on cigarettes and vivacious seniors trying to stay young with Cialis. Big pharma is bullying its way down the throat of consumers and doctors.
Big pharma is an important issue to today’s generation because prices will continue to raise in the future if nothing is done. Americans will continue to pay outrageous prices because it can save their lives- the drug companies are saying give us more money or die. Drug companies will continue to rob Americans blind if more light is not shed on the issue or there is not a way to counter the issue.
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There are significant leadership issues that keep feeding Big Pharma’s pockets. Some may argue that there is strict government regulation of the drug industry which is partially true. There are plenty of regulations that must be passed, but there are just as many loopholes and ways to get special treatment to change the laws. They can get the special treatment because they have infiltrated Congress. The preferential treatment is seen when, “According to the Centre for Public Integrity, the pharmaceutical industry employs two lobbyists for each member of Congress and spends $US100 million ($141 million) a year to keep many of those members of Congress on its side.” (Scandal). The leadership of America, the people working for the citizens, is on the side of pharmaceutical companies. It was also stated that these lobbyists will take advantage of situations, like any other politician, to pass legislation to help their company. ‘"The pharmaceutical lobbyists wrote the bill," one disgusted Republican congressman, Walter Jones, told CBS in 2007. "The bill was over 1000 pages ... and we voted for it at about 3 in the morning."’ (Scandal). These lobbyists are practically spies for the drug industry.
There are plenty of ways for this generation to combat Big Pharma; it can be taken down just like Big Tobacco was tackled. The first way to combat these monopolies would be to break them. These companies are cornering the market on specific drugs. If the FDA could fix their loopholes that allow companies to get sole access to drugs, they would diminish the problem significantly. The government has broken monopolies before, just look at the oil industry at the turn of the 19th century. Allowing more companies access to manufacturing prescriptions would increase competition between companies and drive prices down. Another way to fight the drug companies is to limit where they can advertise because that is the major problem with unnecessary prescriptions, consumers demand what they see on TV. The government can place limits or bans on advertisements from drug companies like they did to Camel and Marlboro. Some laws have been proposed, but none have passed yet (Freundlich). Perhaps these laws have yet to pass because of the issue that these companies have gotten into Congress. Business should be removed from politics because it holds all the power. If Big Pharma was removed from Congress, the government could focus on their goal and what should be the goal of the pharmaceutical company-helping those that need it. Another way to combat these Big Pharma companies would be to have the patient talk to the doctor about generics or cheaper alternatives when it comes to their prescriptions; most likely there will be a cheaper generic or one that is preferred by the insurance company. The drugs being preferred by insurance companies can transition into the last way to help bring down he villainous drug industry. Many private insurance companies work with drug companies to offer preferred lists of prescriptions to their customers to lower the prices because the company will get more customers almost guaranteed. However, Medicare, the largest healthcare coverage in America, cannot negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical industry which prevents them from getting to lower prices for their clients (National). This issue could be a simple fixed if the noninterference policy was removed from the Medicare agreement to allow the government to negotiate the prices with the industry.
A large issue facing this generation in America is the pharmaceutical companies. They focus on the bottom dollar and are only profit oriented; they are not worried about the betterment of the patients. Pharmaceutical companies manipulate the government and consumers to attain this goal of putting more money in the CEO’s pocket, but this can change if we educate others on this issue, look for generics, and try to get the business out of Congress.
- Chordas, Lori. "Generic Drugs Reduce the Cost of Prescriptions." The Pharmaceutical Industry, edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010576249/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=939822a8. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017. Originally published as "Refilling a Need: Thanks to a Growing Number of Generic Drugs, Health Plans Are Better Able to Manage Prescription Costs," Best's Review, vol. 109, no. 4, Aug. 2008.
- "Drug Companies Are to Blame for Rising Health Care Costs." Health Care, edited by David M. Haugen, Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010142299/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=3ad298e8. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017. Originally published as "Prescription Drug Costs Identified as Main Driver of Increasing U.S. Health-Care Costs," PR Newswire, 24 Apr. 2002.
- "Drug price hikes are not a new trick." Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada], 28 Sept. 2015, p. B1. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A430066906/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=68faeb4b. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.
- Freundlich, Naomi. "Prescription Drug Ads Should Be Better Regulated." Prescription Drug Abuse, edited by Margaret Haerens and Lynn M. Zott, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010865223/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=6bec663d. Accessed 3 Dec. 2017. Originally published as "A Solution to the DTC Advertising Dilemma," Taking Note—The Century Foundation, 24 Aug. 2009.
- National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "The Government Should Allow Price Negotiations for Medicare Drugs." The Pharmaceutical Industry, edited by Jamuna Carroll, Greenhaven Press, 2009. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010576227/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=7108ac10. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017. Originally published as "Price Negotiation Would Dramatically Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs for Medicare Beneficiaries,", Apr. 2006.
- "Pharmaceutical Industry." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3010999131/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=bfe72123. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
- Rosch, Paul J. "Pharmaceutical Companies Push Doctors to Prescribe Unnecessary Drugs." Prescription Drugs, edited by Sylvia Engdahl, Greenhaven Press, 2014. Current Controversies. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010532236/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=9cde331b. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017. Originally published as "Are Drug Companies Now Selling Sickness?" Health and Stress, June 2010.
- "Scandal behind US pill prices." Age [Melbourne, Australia], 24 Sept. 2015, p. 18. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ezproxy.lib.apsu.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A429501873/OVIC?u=tel_a_apsu&xid=09154c6d. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
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