Our Daily Meds a Must-read before You Fill Your Next Prescription
Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs reveals that the conman selling snake oil in the town’s square is not a thing of the past. He has been transformed into a slick pharmaceutical empire that puts profits ahead of people.
Author Melody Petersen opens with the story of eflornithine. “Doctors called it the resurrection drug. They have watched as it freed patients from what seemed an inescapable death. The medicine treats sleeping sickness… The pharmaceutical company that manufactured the medicine… abandoned it in 1995, seeing no profit in selling it in poor countries.”
A more profitable use was found a few years later. Eflornithine is now sold to American women with unwanted facial hair as a depilatory cream. And profits are up.
People in poor countries are not the only victims of this pursuit of profit. In the ’80s, American women enjoyed the longest life expectancy in the world. Today, they rank 17th. American men have not fared better. “The average sixty-five year old man can now expect a shorter life than a man his age living in Mexico,” Petersen writes. What has changed? The amount of prescription drug men and women are taking.
U.S. children run higher risk of suicide, thanks to ADHD and anti-depressant meds. Deadly bacterial infections, like MRSA, run rampant because of the glut of antibiotics in our bodies, foods and the environment. Medications, used according to direction, are officially the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease, cancer and stroke. And these statistics are skewed–doctors are not required to report deaths or adverse effects caused by medications.
In addition to eroding America’s health, pharmaceutical companies are robbing Americans blind. Expensive, new drugs are hyped while inexpensive, proven drugs are ignored. “Americans spend more on medical care today than they do on housing, food, transportation or anything else. This was not the case in 1980… By 2015 Americans are expected to surrender one of every five dollars they produce to the pharmaceutical industry and the rest of the nation’s medical system.”
America overdosed: how did it happen?
Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo and AstraZeneca have ensnared the public by inventing new diseases, buying off physicians, controlling scientific research, lobbying the government and massive TV and print advertising campaigns.
For example, Overactive Bladder is a condition created by a Pharmacia’s vice president of marketing, Neil Wolf. He even delivered a speech entitled, “Positioning Detrol (Creating a Disease. Pharmacia boosted a sluggish incontinence drug into a billion-dollar blockbuster. (In addition to being costly, Detrol can cause dementia.)
Your doctor’s taking a bribe. Petersen calculates that “95% of American physicians now line their pockets with corporate lucre.” Resort vacations, gourmet dinners, expensive gifts, cash flow to physicians who make the lecture circuit or write prescriptions for expensive new medicines. They receive fees for attaching their names to journal articles actually penned by marketing firm ghostwriters.
Research financed and controlled by Big Pharma. In the past, universities conducting medical research acted independently. Today, they are on the receiving end of grants and gifts doled out by pharmaceutical companies expecting to reap financial returns. Additional clinical studies funded by pharmaceutical companies are controlled to ensure positive findings. Negative findings are destroyed or hidden.
Medical journals, friendly to ad dollars, publish studies and articles fronted by big pharma, granting authenticity to new drugs that have neither been proven safe nor effective by honest clinical science.
Your government works for big pharma. Extensive lobbying efforts have reduced government oversight of new drugs, relaxed standards of introducing them to the general public and opened up TV and print mediums to extensive advertising, convincing millions to ask their doctors for drugs by name.
Mega-marketing bucks. Big pharma spends more on marketing than on research and development–in fact, marketing costs incurred before a drug’s release are earmarked as R&D, making the dishonest case for higher drug prices. Celebrities and healthcare professionals to make claims for medications that would be illegal for the drug company to make itself.
Drugging mother earth. Prescription medications are not only making people sick, they are polluting the environment. Drugs pass through the body and into the water supply. Species of frogs and fish have become extinct and/or mutated due to the effects of hormones, antibiotics and antidepressants in the water. We will no doubt see effects on human beings in the near future, if we have not already.
Protect yourself. While Petersen concludes with a wide range plan for cleaning up pharmaceutical companies’ stranglehold on America’s health, one point is especially well taken. Protect yourself. Assume your doctor is on big pharma’s payroll. Seek ways to deal with health problems other than medication. If you do need a drug, ask if there are older, proven, less expensive options. Read the insert so you know potential side effects. If you can’t understand the lingo, ask your pharmacist for help. If you experience side effects or the drug isn’t helping, quit taking it.
Petersen concludes, “Start a revolution.”
That truly may be the only way to have a healthcare system that cares about health, not profits.
Melody Petersen, Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).