Meanwhile, patients suffer the bullying in addition to their illnesses
I did a quick Google news search today, using only the word “pharmaceutical.” I found that 18 of the top 25 results were about investing in drug companies. That’s remarkable in a couple of ways, the first being all the bad news pouring from the pharmaceutical industry regarding doctors at wits’ end about prices and misleading information and patients suffering the consequences.
Most disturbing is what the results of my search say about priorities. I’m speaking not only of the priorities of pharmaceutical companies – which by now are fairly irrefutable – but also about the priorities of the media and the public at-large (providing the demand for wall-to-wall coverage of pharma stocks).
Clearly, Wall Street contributes to the doctors’ headaches and the patients’ struggles with accessibility and affordability of prescription drugs. We must rise above the temptation of riches, as a nation. It’s actually quite simple at its core: Make money by helping people, not hurting them. Investors are the root of what springs forth as a Martin Shkreli (the pharma “bad boy” recently indicted for securities fraud at his prior hedge funds).
Thank goodness for reports such as the recent one in the Deseret (Utah) News. The story, “Three Reasons to be Wary of Pharmaceutical Firms,” summarizes the price-gouging issues, the political influence that’s often tantamount to corruption, and third, quite patient-focused area – the role drug companies play in drug addiction.
The report points to a Time magazine piece which examined Big Pharma’s big investment in the big game – the Super Bowl. To the tune of $5 million for a 30-second commercial asking you to think about adding opioids to your daily regimen.
The drug industry’s Super Bowl splash came on the heels of a CDC report that “opioid use more than doubled between 2000 and 2014, and the rate of opioid overdose deaths also doubled.”
Deseret News also points out that, tellingly, the United States is one of only two countries in the world where advertising pharmaceuticals directly to consumers is legal.
These are among the tools available in America to a $3 trillion per year industry:
- Investor-focused, rather than patient-focused, practices
- Well-funded influence-peddling on Capitol Hill
- Direct funding of organizations like the Federation of State Medical Boards, American Pain Society, and others.
All of the above work to ensure that money overwhelmingly drives the pharmaceutical industry and its allies. One might say it most often seems 95 percent of its engine power.
Millions of everyday investors, unfortunately, are drawn to that drive, unconscionable as it may be. They give birth to the Martin Shkrelis of America. The evidence (as in my simple Google search) is not hard to find. Ever are we abreast of even the slightest movement in a drug company and/or its stock rating.
A more balanced, socially conscious populace would demand acknowledgment (at very least) of the effects on caregivers and patients be included in each and every news article about pharmaceuticals!
As the arrests of pharmaceutical CEOs proves, no multi-trillion-dollar industry is free of crime. In a fictionalized way, I explore the criminal underworld within Big Pharma in my novel DEADLY PRESCRIPTION, available mid-2016.