Are Doctor’s thinking for themselves when they reach for the perscription pad. Are they providing what is best for you? Should they not be rewarded for preventative care? Are they moving with the latest fad, or the biggest poster? Who knows? When we visit the doctor’s office our fate is in their hands – and those who back them (Big Pharma). But sometimes these medicines have awful side-effects. What then?
Big Pharma is the nickname given to the world’s vast and influential pharmaceutical industry and its trade and lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America or PhRMA. These powerful companies make billions of dollars a year by selling drugs and medical devices.
Big Pharma wields enormous influence over the prescription drug and medical device markets around the globe. In fact, in the United States, the industry contributes heavily to the annual budget of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is charged with regulating drugs and devices made by those same companies.
The industry demonstrates its power, political might and social influence over the nation’s governments and agencies, its health care systems, its doctors and hospitals, as well as the psyche of the American people. With the help of staggering profits and 1,100-plus paid lobbyists, the industry has gained powerful leverage on Capitol Hill.
From 1998 to 2013, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.7 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry and 42 percent more than the second highest paying industry: insurance. And since 1990, individuals, lobbyists and political action committees affiliated with the industry have doled out $150 million in campaign contributions.
The world’s 11 largest drug companies made a net profit of $711.4 billion from 2003 to 2012. Six of these companies are headquartered in the United Sates: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly. In 2012 alone, the top 11 companies earned nearly $85 billion in net profits. According to IMS Health, a worldwide leader in health care research, the global market for pharmaceuticals is expected to top $1 trillion in sales by 2014.
But the large amount of cash Big Pharma bestows on government representatives and regulatory bodies is small when compared with the billions it spends each year on direct-to-consumer advertising. In 2012, the industry invested nearly $3.5 billion into marketing drugs on the Internet, TV, radio and other outlets. The United States is one of only two countries in the world whose governments allow prescription drugs to be advertised on TV (the other is New Zealand).
A single manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, spent $464 million advertising its blood thinner Pradaxa in 2011. The following year, the drug passed the $1 billion sales mark. The money in this business appears to be well-spent.
When it comes to drugs taken and devices used by the American public, a handful of parent companies come into view. Prescription drugs and devices manufactured by these companies bring in billions in profits, but may leave consumers with serious adverse side effects. The suffering experienced by users of the drugs and devices is hard to quantify.
Doctors are not always aware of the myriad of side effects, and just go by the marketing material send out by the pharmaceutical companies. There are always kick-backs and rewards for using certain drugs. The ethics of health services around the world needs overhauling.
The website Drugwatch gives a list of current cases against drug companies for treatments that have gone wrong. It is hard to blame the Doctor since they were only going by the information supplied by the pharmacists.