Everyone has the right to
a standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself and of
his family, including food, clothing,
housing and medical care and necessary
social services, and the right to security
in the event of unemployment, sickness,
disability, widowhood, old age or other
lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond
his control. – Article 25, Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
One prevailing characteristic of
21st century life has been the unrelenting
exploitation of human necessity perpetrated
by corporations and their puppet-government
stooges. In this space we have discussed
this trend and it’s disastrous effect
on the housing situation in the U.S. (http://geoclan.com/politics/articles/housing.htm.)
We now turn to the issue of health care,
pharmaceutical drugs in particular, where
industry greed and Washington legislation
have made the drug business extraordinarily
profitable. Predictably these profits
are mostly made through the sale of vital
medications, which are unattainable for
many and an excessive economic burden
for those who can afford them. Big Pharma
projects an image of itself as a benevolent
purveyor of life-saving medicine but closer
scrutiny reveals a powerful monster possessing
the potential to both improve and ignore
millions of lives.
Over the past 6 years the pharmaceutical
business has been the most profitable
in the U.S., surpassing banks, oil and
military equipment. With annual sales
currently exceeding $450 billion Big Pharma
has the ability to field a massive lobbying
team in Washington. There are more lobbyists
on the Big Pharma payroll in Washington
than there are Congressional representatives.
This buys Big Pharma the ears and pens
of their government friends in the form
of among other things, protectionist regulations
(blocking cheap imports) and plenty of
tax-payer funded Research and Development
Through these salad days of profitability
for Big Pharma, national spending on prescription
drugs has increased 20% each year. Marketing
budgets for drug companies have also increased
in synchronized leaps. In a cunning slight
of hand, drug companies have driven prices
higher, effectively fooling us into subsidizing
their ad campaigns to sell us more drugs.
And the thing that can drive even the
most hardcore optimist to reach for the
Prozac is that there is no end in sight
to the climate of profit-first practice
in the field of medicine. The lack of
a single-payer plan in the recent Medicare
revisions proves the pull of the industry.
If the government was the sole purchaser
of pharmaceutical drugs it could use its
market power to keep prices low, an unacceptable
condition for Big Pharma. The $150 million/year
lobby bill will pay itself back several-fold
(with our dough) based on that boon alone.
Money and profit dictate the market and
affordable prescription drugs do not contribute
positively to these aims.
Another casualty in the profit war is
the lack of research and development money
devoted to widespread scourges such as
cancer and diabetes. With a majority of
research dollars earmarked for ‘profitable’
treatments (like erectile dysfunction),
advancements in medicine have been slowed.
Big Pharma collectively has the power
to eradicate many global epidemics and
drastically reduce others. For all the
gestures of ‘free’ drugs and
multi-billion dollar promises from the
U.S. President, a single action would
open up the delivery of vital medicine
globally. The World Trade Organization
TRIPS agreement makes it illegal under
threat of sanction for a company to produce
and sell a generic version of a drug.
Generic drugs have precisely the same
chemical makeup of their expensive counterparts.
If this intellectual property rights agreement
is rescinded governments could realistically
begin to plan to acquire or produce life-saving
medications. Big Pharma is staunchly opposed
to such a change as billions and billions
of dollars are made off the misery of
the sick. If drug companies in India,
China or Brazil could produce quality
drugs at a mere fraction of the cost,
Big Pharma’s hustle would be over.
To see a change here in the U.S., the
influence Big Pharma wields in the political
world will have to be contested and ceased.
Health care is a human right and not a
commodity to be bought and bargained with.
When people need to share medications
and others subsist without, everyone must
unite in an attempt to transform this
destructive monster into a universal healer.