Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Big Pharma Makes Me Sick

July 12, 2009, 8:30a.m.

Big Pharma is a Carcinogen
(brought to you by*)

The pharmaceutical industry is deliberately causing and spreading cancer -- and very successfully so.

It is the cancer of corruption spreading from our body politic throughout the major institutions of our medical profession, research, and regulation.

I'm indebted to Holly Mosher (a successful, self-described "independent filmmaker - producing and directing independent media with an eye towards positive change") for bringing the film "Money Talks: Profits Before Public Safety" to my attention -- and especially for making the entire film available for viewing, for free!

In this film those from inside pharma, academic medicine, medical research, and practicing physicians who are willing to talk, describe in horrifying detail in this film how the pharmaceutical industry's money and influence has infected institutions well beyond those with which we're familiar: the Congress (campaign contributions and the $1.3-million-a-day lobbying expenses we're now experiencing)and the White House (e.g., although not in the film, the recent revelations of the President's agreement to oppose a legislative provision permitting government to negotiate for lower drug prices -- as a result of s secret, closed door meeting with pharma's top lobbyist).

According to those in the film, pharma's carcinogenic infestation of American institutions now includes relationships, financial and otherwise, with practicing physicians, medical schools, research institutions, government regulators, mass media and the academic journals. Pharma is designing, paying for, controlling, manipulating and withholding the data from clinical trials.

It is a credit to the participants in this film, and the producer, that the film is not a reenactment of the shouting matches on cable television; those interviewed are relatively calm and more straightforward in providing mere description rather than judgmental conclusions.

But with the facts they reveal there's no need to shout. The facts shout for them.

There's not room in a single blog entry to provide you a transcript of the additional litany of shocking practices -- and their consequences, up to and including unnecessary deaths (and obviously wildly overinflated prices for drugs that are sometimes less effective than the cheaper generics).

According to the Web page, the American Library Association has called "Money Talks" one of the most important films of 2008. I agree.

As the bumper sticker has it, "If you're not outraged you haven't been paying attention." In either case you need to watch this film. If you're already outraged you'll be much better informed as to why. If you're not yet outraged you will be after you've watched it.

Obviously, it couldn't be more timely than now, while our nation confronts its last best hope for meaningful health care reform.

But for public policy wonks, social studies teachers, and others interested in politics and our legal system, it contains more general lessons as well. They will, sadly, undoubtedly be as usefully insightful ten years from now in other contexts as they are today for health care.

This film portrays a classic case study of how we get ourselves in the fix we're so often in when obviously necessary reforms seem beyond our legislative grasp. How do industries, sometimes individual companies, spread their influence throughout not just our political institutions, but many to all of the powerful institutions in our society -- universities, organized religion, labor unions, the mass media? There is far more involved in this process than spreading around a few hundred million dollars on elected officials and mass media advertising.

So when you watch this film don't just learn how and why the drug industry makes us sick, as important and timely as that is. Think about the analogies: the power that AT&T once had over America (before its breakup), how Wall Street was able to get trillions of taxpayer dollars, why the auto industry was able to be the favored recipient of government largess when dollars elsewhere might have produced more and faster meaningful recovery -- and the examples of other companies and industries that seem to have what would otherwise be inexplicable power.

This film explains how they do it.

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

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