Big Pharma’s Grip on America- Part 1
Health & Prosperity
In a nation as prosperous and successful as the United States, people often confuse and conflate the importance of the methods, tools, and lifestyles that allow our nation to remain a democratic beacon of freedom in the Western world. The obsession with money, the acquisition of wealth at all costs, and the corrupt power that these arbitrary numbers inevitably bring, forces our country to focus our attention on matters that do not relate to our overall well-being and happiness as human beings.
Money means freedom. Money is not a factor in determining the success of an individual. People desire to live the life professed as the standard in the United States, the American Dream. Unfortunately, the barrier to entry into this elite club of select wealthy individuals leaves most of the nation struggling, and often failing to afford, the most basic necessities for themselves and their families.
Young Americans are a slave to the system, with thousands of dollars in student loans; the job market provides fewer, full-time, quality jobs to an increasingly greater group of people; the housing market turned into an investors haven, causing the crash of 2008 and leaving a new generation of home owners stuck at home, unable to start their lives; and the most fundamental issue to surviving and thriving as human beings, proper healthcare- a necessity to sustain a positive life in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known- fails to meet the standards of a modern nation, as Big Pharma drug companies have turned healthcare into a weapon against the weakest and poorest among us.
A persons well-being and the healthcare that provides them this safety and security is paramount in determining the morality and success of a nation. Unfortunately, like all things in the United States, a persons health is treated as a luxury, not a necessity. Big Pharma corporations- with the reckless help of the American government- exploit this most vulnerable part of our lives- our life itself- for hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
The slow progression of Americas for-profit healthcare system is well documented and outright blatant when looking at the billions of dollars of spent by Big Pharma to lobby Congress, effectively buying off politicians who subsequently write legislation that benefits major corporations at the expense of the American people. Drug companies pay the equivalent of $468,000 per Congress member, every year, in their effort to own the American government.
The years from 1998-2017 show that Big Pharma is the federal governments largest lobbying industry, with over $3.7 billion flooding in, in a successful effort to influence national policies and limit regulations from federal agencies. Originally celebrated as a victory for free-market American capitalism, the Medicare Modernization Act Part D- signed into law by George W. Bush in 2003- prevents the federal government from negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Drug manufacturers that provide medication and healthcare service for Medicare- a federal health insurance program for people with disabilities and people over the age of 65- are free to charge whatever price they wish.
These companies often hike up prices for rare, life-saving medications because they know that the government will not interfere, a scheme known as price gauging. However, as drug companies continue to charge exorbitant prices for important medications, and as more people require these medications, the government is forced to allocate greater sums of American tax dollars to fund these programs. The United States spends more than any other nation on healthcare- over $3.2 trillion annually- a sum that continues to rise each year. As a result of this free market capitalism, every American tax payer pays more money, while a few multi-billion dollar corporations get rich.
The Prescription Drug User Free Act (PDUFA, 1992) ensures that the federal government remains beholden to the demands of Big Pharma. This law requires that drug companies directly pay the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) an average of two million dollars to review their applications for the approval of new drugs into the market. Complaints by the pharmaceutical industry that the FDA takes too long to review and approve new drugs to the market led Congress to pass this bill into law. Decisions such as this damage the integrity of federal organizations whose purpose is to protect and serve American citizens; they are motivated, protected, and guaranteed passage into law by the millions of dollars in campaign contributions that private corporations funnel into the government, which influence and corrupt the minds of politicians.
Three-fourths of annual FDA funding comes from pharmaceutical companies, with the remaining amount coming from tax revenue. Since PDUFA passed in 1992, pharmaceutical companies have provided the FDA with $8 billion in funding, a profit that the government agency heavily relies on to staff the organization to ensure a speedy process for drug companies so that their profits are not interfered with.
In the eyes of the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA continues to play too significant a role in protecting the public against harmful and addictive drugs. With the approval of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, the FDA is encouraged to move away from verifiable and controlled scientific trials of new drugs and, instead, switch to clinical experience, a process which includes observational study, patient anecdotes, and unsubstantiated beliefs instead of scientific evidence. Drug companies and the FDA work together to set a standard called a surrogate endpoint, which is a scientifically accepted sign of efficacy intended to speed up the clinical trials of a new drug to reach the market with less evidence.
By lowering the standards for public safety and drug efficacy, drugs pass through the FDA faster with significantly greater chances of adverse side effects, further injury, illness and death. The standard operating procedure at the FDA is to expedite the approval of new drugs with the help of billions of dollars in pharmaceutical funding, get the drugs on the market as quickly as possible with limited scientific evidence about the dangers and side effects, deal with the illnesses and deaths caused by the drugs and treat them as unintended consequences. Americans rely on the FDA to be the arbiter of truth, but like other federal regulatory agencies, their integrity is damaged and thousands of Americans suffer the consequences. Profit over people, textbook insanity.
Big Pharma’s dark money and influence over the American government continue with decisions like the Ensuring Patients Access & Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016. This law requires that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) must prove that a pharmaceutical companies actions pose a “substantial likelihood of an immediate threat” of death, serious bodily harm or drug abuse before stepping in to protect the public from illicit dangers. The DEA is responsible for preventing the distribution of illegal narcotics in the United States, this law makes it harder to reign in and prosecute pharmaceutical companies whose drugs directly result in the injury, illness, and deaths of American citizens. By shifting the burden of proof onto the DEA, responsibility and culpability is shifted away from drug companies that illegally distribute narcotics across the United States.
Drug companies continually collude and conspire with Congress in their efforts to limit the DEA’s authority to protect American citizens against dangerous drugs. Pharmaceutical companies posses the unchecked power to ship drugs across the country in unlimited quantities with little-to-no accountability. Dangerous and illegal situations like the one in Kermit, West Virginia- with a population of only 392- become more prevalent. Over the course of two years, a single pharmacy in Kermit received over nine million Hydrocodone painkiller pills. Additionally, over the course of six years, 780 million Oxycodone and Hydrocodone pills were sent to the state of West Virginia.
Low-income and low-education small towns and states in the Midwest become hotbeds for black market pharmaceutical company drug dealing, where Americans flock to for cheap opioids when their prescriptions expire. If an opioid users prescription runs out, and they are unable to renew or find a market for legal medications, they may turn to the unregulated black market for cheaper alternatives like heroin or opioid alternatives. Oftentimes, black market opioids are cut with fentanyl, a compound that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Part 2