Want to be a drug addict? If you live in the U.S. chances are you probably already are. The U.S. – land of the free, of MTV, and of legal drugs. This might just be what makes America great. A place where our doctors prescribe us pills we don’t need for conditions that don’t exist. It’s a win-win. Big Pharma gets bigger and richer and we get higher or just die.
Music: FloFilz – Tilezeit
The story was different 50 years ago when Jon went down to his dentist’s office to get his wisdom teeth pulled and the doctor gave him aspirin as pain medication. This was a time when young men went to war and women worked their asses off at home to save the country from collapse. Now? We get high, play video games, watch YouTube, and complain when someone doesn’t call us the right gender. And these days if old Jonny boy goes to the dentist and wants some work done it’s dealers choice. Vicodin. Percocet. Codeine. You name it. Whatever company happens to be in bed with your doctor that day. And if you don’t have private insurance that pays for your drugs? No problem. Sign up for Medicaid. You’ll definitely be able to get free drugs through them.
First what exactly is the pharmaceutical industry? To make a long story short it’s a business that creates drugs for use as medications. It’s important to note that it’s not a terrible industry. In fact they have made some very important discoveries like insulin which has saved millions of lives or the countless vaccines that have protected us from at one point, very common diseases like measles and hepatitis.
The problem is not the idea of pharmaceuticals – drugs are neither good nor bad. They can either be helpful or dangerous depending on their use. The problem with big pharma is that it is literally killing people. And it’s making a profit doing so. And our government is basically encouraging it.
You may ask yourself how an industry that it supposed to be providing us medication which is regulated by the Federal Drug Administration – an organization responsible for “protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human…drugs,” is killing us. Let’s first look at the health statistics:
• 99% of hydrocodone worldwide use is in the U.S – we know this drug more colloquially as Vicodin (which is just a company that makes hydrocodone). This is a drug that the FDA rates as less dangerous as marijuana but in 2011 caused nearly 100,000 emergency department visits.
• The U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s population but consumes 80% of its opioid consumption
• On average 40 deaths per day are linked to specifically prescription opioids and over 100,000 deaths per year linked with prescription drugs in general. This is far more deaths than what illegal street drugs cause.
• Prescription drugs are now the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Ok. You get the point. Prescription drugs are dangerous and they are killing people. But now the question is why are people taking them if they’re so dangerous? The answer lies in the incredible reach of big Pharma. The pharmaceutical industry spends between 30 and 60 billion dollars a year on advertising their miracle drugs. You’ve all seen their ads – blue skies, beautiful couple, trees – having trouble sleeping? Bad knees? Buy our pill and feel like new. And then the 10 second list of possible side effects which always include “and in extreme cases, death.” The folks that regulate these advertisements have a budget of $9 million dollars. Do you really think a $9 million dollar budget is enough to regulate something that is more than 6,000 times that size. This is not a David vs. Goliath story. This is an ant vs. an elephant.
Big pharma is also notorious for selling drugs that aren’t approved for certain symptoms – a practice called Off-Label Promotion. For example your doctor might prescribe you an antidepressant because she or he believes it will help your migraines. This practice is at times is legal and at others illegal. If illegal you will learn shortly that the fine usually is smaller than the profit these companies make. Big pharma might just consider it another tax of doing business. And yes it has in some cases caused death.
There is also the idea that big Pharma creates new illnesses and solves them with their pills. Sounds like a conspiracy theory, right? But actually it makes a lot of sense and you’ve probably seen an ad that talks about some made up illness and a pill to fix it without thinking twice. For example restless leg syndrome. Is that really an illness?