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Big Pharma Propaganda: How Drug Companies Feed the Crisis

Big Pharma Propaganda: How Drug Companies Feed the Problem

Author: Justin Mckibben

Overprescribing of powerful prescription medications is just one part of how the current American opioid crisis came to be. While incredibly dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl came pouring in from across the globe, the pharmaceutical industry right in our own backyard thrived off of the devastation it was helping create. And as more people became aware of how prescription drugs were contributing to one of the worst drug epidemics in the country’s history, Big Pharma has come under fire for a number of things over the years. To name a few, we’ve seen arguments against drug companies for:

With recent reports, such as the explosive piece of 60 Minutes last month, we have also been exposed to the corruption, greed and a disregard for the well-being of the consumer.

The Big Pharma propaganda machine has paid out countless dollars for criminal and civil settlements over the years. Now even state officials are resorting to lawsuits against drug manufacturers in the fight against the ongoing opioid crisis.

So how did all this happen? How deep does the Big Pharma propaganda go? Some of this you might already know, but some of it might actually surprise you.

Prescription Politics

In case you didn’t know, the pharmaceuticals and health products industry spends the most money on lobbying politicians. And not even by a little.

  • Big Pharma and Health Products spent $3,714,580,815

That means that Big Pharma spends:

  • $1,134,783,913 more than 2nd place- Insurance Companies
  • $1,717,237,691 more than Oil/Gas Companies

The pharmaceutical industry, including dealers of medical products and nutritional/dietary supplements, is consistently a top contributor more to federal campaigns than any other industry.

In essence, drug companies spend big money on politics.

Whether we can always see it or not, this kind of financial incentive is more than likely playing into our current work on policy. For example, moves to pass legislation earlier this year were called into question by one source who pointed out 13 senators who were trying to push through a bill that would benefit the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from these companies between 2010 and 2016, including:

  • Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch led the way with more than $471,000
  • Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell with over $433,00 in donations

FUN FACT- Many lobbyists working on behalf of Big Pharma companies have previously held government jobs.

Information Manipulation

Truthfully, drug companies spend several years before a drug even makes it to the market on planning a strategy for selling it to you. Part of that strategy is proving drugs have value for treatment. However, according to some industry insiders, a lot of the time there is not enough comprehensive data to prove that value.

What you might also find surprising is that some of the earliest information drug companies have published about their products aren’t actually from credible sources. Ad agencies will hire writers to produce articles on behalf of the drug maker highlighting benefits of a drug. But the data is often cherry-picked and incomplete.

These articles are then sold to the public as ‘scientific’ because they are printed and published by some of the biggest scientific and medical publications, such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Those articles are then picked up by television and other news sources.

So essentially, drug companies often team up with marketing companies to fool not just doctors, but the public into thinking their product provides something that has yet to be proven. Big Pharma propaganda corrupts the research into their drugs and makes people believe their products are safer and more effective than they are.

For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our FREE E-BOOK “Big Secrets of Big Pharma: Why They Secretly Hope You Get Hooked”

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Big Pharma’s Billions in Ads

It isn’t just behind the scenes that Big Pharma propaganda takes place. Drug makers spend around $21 billion a year just to pedal products through advertising. One big problem for Americans is that many of their promotional techniques have been called out for being false advertising or misleading, to say the least.

  • 2015, the industry spent a record-breaking $5.4 billion of direct-to-consumer ads alone.
  • The same year, Americans spent over $450 billion on prescription drugs.

Some sources indicate there are about 80 drug advertisements per hour. While drug companies want people to think it is raising awareness, it is most definitely a commercial to sell you something.

Many pharma companies even have deep financial ties to medical communication companies (MCC) like WebMD or Medscape. This is just one more way they can influence physicians and consumers without people realizing the drug makers are funding the information.

Doctors Recruiting Doctors

But the drug makers don’t stop with recruiting politicians to support them. They also utilize doctors to help them push their products. The main target audience in most of the campaigns pushed by Big Pharma propaganda is not necessarily the consumer as much as it is the person who writes the prescriptions.

Drug companies giving kickbacks to doctors is nothing new.

So drugmakers create an advisory board, where some of the most successful and well-respected doctors are put on the payroll with huge payoffs to help drug companies design a marketing campaign that will help promote the drugs to other doctors. Once these doctors have helped highlight the best ways to convince other physicians these drugs work, they themselves validate the drug in a way that encourages other doctors to prescribe the drug.

Drugs to Treat Drugs

A while back there was an ad that ran during the Superbowl that caught the attention of a lot of people. It was an ad selling an anti-constipation drug for those so dependent on prescription opioids that they were suffering from constipation as a side effect.

This is another huge problem with how drugs are marketed to us… in tandem.

Instead of suggesting an alternative treatment, drug companies want to give you more drugs to combat the effects of other drugs. Doctors will often prescribe a second medication for no other purpose than to treat the effects of the first medication. Big Pharma propaganda can literally sell you the illness and the medicine in the same marketing campaign. A 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine describes this as “prescribing cascade”.The study indicates that the practice of using drugs to treat problems with other drugs is a key component to the heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals in healthcare.

Another devastating way this has taken place is when doctors prescribe powerfully and potentially habit-forming narcotic medications to combat illicit drug use and substance use disorder. Heroin addicts are being treated with other strong narcotics, which can actually have their own withdrawal symptoms and side effects. They even highjacked the opioid overdose antidote and several makers gouged the prices to offensive new heights during the rise of the opioid epidemic.

Drug Companies Abuse of Americans

Now let us be fair; modern medicine does provide us with some life-saving resources that can be paramount to the health and wellness of our population. Thanks to great strides in medicine doctors are able to treat some conditions or illnesses that were once thought of as a death sentence. Today, we have some of the greatest opportunities to receive quality care with innovative and well-researched treatments.

However, the fact remains that drug companies have been caught red-handed more than a few times misrepresenting their products, hiding the side-effects, falsely advertising their benefits and even recently some huge names in pharmaceuticals have been accused of bribery and racketeering to sell potent and extremely dangerous drugs.

So, what can be done?

  1. We can take a closer look at how Big Pharma propaganda influences or elected representatives and their decisions on policy.
  2. We can pay attention to how the information provided by pharmaceutical companies or marketers is not always as reliable as it may seem.
  3. Look into excessive advertising for potent drugs
  4. Do more to combat drug makers from paying doctors to promote their drugs to other doctors.
  5. Pursue other forms of treatment that don’t require expensive and powerful drugs.

When it comes to drug abuse, maybe we shouldn’t let the drug companies continue to make massive profits from a problem they have a large hand in creating. There needs to be more commitment to finding alternative treatments that don’t rely so heavily on drugs in order to help people get healthy.

Holistic drug addiction treatment is a unique and effective way of helping people struggling with substance use disorder. The fact that powerful drugs help cause addiction, let us not forget the value of offering healing options that don’t require more drugs. Building a strong foundation with personalized therapy and innovative treatment opportunities helps thousands of people all over the nation overcome addiction. Palm Partners Recovery Center is committed to providing quality care for those dealing with drug abuse, whether it is illicit drugs or prescription drug dependence. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.   

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Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Antidote Surges in Price From $690 to $4500

Author: Shernide Delva

Remember a while back when the price for a life-saving HIV/AIDS drug hiked up 5,000 percent? The blame was on Mark Shkreli, a brash pharmaceutical entrepreneur who bought the drug only to turn a profit.

Not long after, we heard about the EpiPen price hike led by Heather Bresh, the CEO of Mylan.  The signature EpiPen saw its price skyrocket to more than $600 for a twin pack. That price is considered outrageous considering the active ingredients in EpiPen cost pennies in comparison.

Needless to say, things are not getting better in the price gouging department.

Another lifesaving drug has gotten a massive price inflation.  The Virginia company Kaleo makes a naloxone injector device that is in high demand due to the opioid epidemic. As a result, the price for a twin pack of the overdose antidote skyrocketed from $690 in 2014 to $4,500!

The product is called Evzio and it is similar to other overdose antidotes. The difference is the product talks users through the entire process. The company says the price is justified because it guides users to reversing an overdose. The product lets the user know how long to leave the needle in which increases effectiveness. In conclusion, they believe the product helps save more lives.

How It All Began

In 2014, Evzio won federal approval, and soon it accounted for nearly 20 percent of naloxone dispensed through retail outlets between 2015 and 2016. Evzio also makes up half of naloxone products prescribed to patients between 40 and 64—the group that comprises the bulk of naloxone users.

The cost of generic, injectable naloxone— which has been on the market since 1971— had already been climbing in price. A 10 ml vial sold by one of the dominant vendors prices at close to $150, more than double its price from a few years ago. That price hike far exceeds the costs of the naloxone chemical, researchers say.

Still, according to experts, the Evzio price surge is considered way out of step with production costs and results in a needless drain on a critical health-care resources:

“There’s absolutely nothing that warrants them charging what they’re charging,” said Leo Beletsky, an associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston.

As a response to the controversy, Kaleo is now dispensing its device for free to first responders and drug-addiction programs. The device has been invaluable to patients to combat overdoses, however, at the $4,500 mark, most will not be able to budget for it anymore.

A GROWING MARKET

The opioid crisis has led to more and more experts demanding the expansion of naloxone access. The idea is that increased access to naloxone results in a decrease in overdose fatalities.  Sadly, price gouging will only limit accessibility to the drug.

“There’s a lot of value to this formulation,” said Ravi Gupta, a medical student and lead author of a December op-ed on the pricing issue, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “But it’s not justified. This pricing is not justified.”

For now, those who accept free Evzio devices may soon face withdrawal. Last year, Kaleo’s donation supply was exhausted by July. While the company has added to its donation supply, when they run out, companies will have to pay up.

Policymakers have yet to set strong guidelines when it comes to keeping pricing in line with value. Until that happens, little will change.

“Epi-Pen happened, and everyone was like, ‘Wow, this is terrible, we shouldn’t allow this to happen,’” he said. “And we haven’t done anything about that, and it’s not clear what the solution is. Now, shocker, it’s happening again.”

In conclusion, the price of various life changing drugs continues to spike at alarming rates. Stricter regulations are needed to control unnecessary price gouging. There are lives at stake and price gouging only increases the risk of overdose deaths.

How should this crisis be handled? The best way to reduce overdose deaths is through prevention and treatment. An overdose should not have to be your wake up call to seek help. The risk is too high. Please seek help before your addiction progresses further. Do not wait. Call now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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