By: Michael A. Martin
Associate Editor, Downtown LA Life Magazine International
“I was under medication when I made the decision not to burn the
tapes.” - Richard M. Nixon
Big Pharma does not want their customers dead or cured. Much like
Big Finance, they want a growing, captive market of reliable, repeat
customers, i.e. drug therapy maintenance programs.
“Just stop taking’em and see what happens. I’d rather be jonesing
off heroin any day.” - Juan Dillinger
Use of Antidepressants has jumped nearly 400% since 1988:
11% of Americans, 12 years+ take Antidepressants
23% of women in their 40s and 50s take
Antidepressants. (CDC, Harvard Health Blog)
“… 80 percent of each antidepressant drug (studied) passes
through the human body without being broken down, which is why they
are found in waste water. If they're not filtered out in
purification systems, they can end up in the water supply. ‘While
others have envisioned a causal role for psychotropic drugs in
idiopathic autism, we were astonished to find evidence that this
might occur at very low dosages, such as those found in aquatic
systems,’ said lead researcher Michael A. Thomas of Idaho State
University.” (International Science Times)
“Fish exposed to psychiatric medicines showed gene patterns
similar to those found in people with autism, in a study suggesting
a link between drugs that get into the human water supply and the
brain development disorder. Researchers put antidepressants Prozac
and Effexor, as well as anti-seizure drug Tegratol into water tanks
of minnows. Tests showed that the same genes turned on in people
with autism were also triggered in the fish after exposure. Eli
Lilly & Co.’s Prozac, Pfizer Inc.’s Effexor and their generic
equivalents belong to classes of drugs that generated $14.2 billion
in U.S. sales last year.”(Bloomberg)
"Two thousand pharmacologists and biochemists were subsidized in
A.F. 178." – Brave New World, Huxley
D.C. Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd.
If we believed that the relationship between George Bush Sr., Eli
Lilly, the FDA, and the subsequent introduction of Prozac to the
marketplace was an exception to Big Pharma’s modus operandi, we were
terribly mistaken. From Obamacare to Medicare, from Opioids to
Contraceptives: The power of the Pharmaceutical Industry and its
insidious, elusive collusion with Congress and the White House is
stronger than ever.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a warning
about the corruption and unethical practices that are endemic to
every step of the pharmaceuticals business: Corruption in the
pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine
chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion.
(Natural News, April 2010).”
As of 2009, the world’s top twelve pharmaceutical giants made a
net profit of 78 billion dollars based on revenues of 434 billion.
Seven of those twelve corporations are headquartered in the United
In 2011, total global sales of pharmaceuticals exceeded 955
billion dollars, with an estimated growth to 1.2 trillion by 2016.
Over two thirds of this increase is projected to come from ‘Pharmerging’
markets such as China and Brazil.
Here in the U.S., it is speculated that growth will remain steady
from 322 billion dollars in 2011 to 350 billion by 2016. With
approximately 115 million U.S. households, $322 billion represents
approximately $2,800.00 in drug expense per household per year; a
figure that is sure to rise due to an aging population, Big Pharma
price-setting coupled with re-import controls, increasingly
prohibitive hospitalization and primary care costs vs. the cheaper
alternative of drug therapies, and the Pharma-lucrative Medicare D:
All factors which strongly favor the drug industry.
York University researchers estimate that Pharma spends more than
twice as much on promotion than on research and development. As of
2009, it was reported that there were 81,000 drug reps, one for
every 7.9 doctors nationwide. ProPublica’s ‘Dollars for Docs’
database shows $760 million+ in Big Pharma payments to physicians
and other providers for consulting, research, presentations, and
‘other’ expenses from 2009 to the beginning of 2011. This is a
grossly incomplete tally with only 12 drug companies (40% of U.S.
Minimally, there are 1,100+ lobbyists representing Big Pharma in
Washington. This excludes the increase in ‘influence peddling’ now
occurring at the state level. The Center for Responsive Politics
reports that from 2009 to 2011, the prescription drug, biotechnology
and medical device companies spent more than $700 million+ lobbying
Congress and the White House. The pharmaceutical industry alone
spent more than $487 million on lobbying over the three-year
In 2012, Big Pharma lobbying expenditures topped 180 million
dollars, followed by Business Association lobbies spending 122
million. Comparatively, the Oil and Gas lobby spent 104 million,
Defense and Aerospace 43 million.
While the modus operandi of Oil and Gas and others is to allocate
monies to industry-friendly candidates’ campaigns in hope of
positive election outcomes, Big Pharma’s strategy has been to await
election results, then to load up the coffers of
drug-policy-relevant politicians and those that are to fill
significant committee posts.
Also, in 2001 under the Bush administration, the nepotistic
‘Revolving Door’ became much more ‘visible’ with the establishment
of the Food and Drug Administration Alumni Association. Although
such unethical FDA-Big Pharma relationships have existed for
decades, the founding of this organization officially recognized the
bonding of government and industry regarding drug policy and
Inside the beltway, we are witness to one of the most
destructive, addictive substances known to man: Greed.
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition that affects up to 600,000
Americans every year. Lovenex, a drug thinner injection for this
condition, earns French maker Sanofi more than 2 billion dollars a
year in the U.S. market. In 2007, when the FDA began to consider a
cheaper, generic version of Lovenex, Sanofi responded.
Over a three-year period, Sanofi donated more than 2.6 million
dollars to The Society for Hospital Medicine, earmarked for
sponsorship and conferences. Sanofi then urged members to send
letters to the FDA that challenged the safety of generic versions of
Lovenex. Two letters were sent; one, which stated, “… untested
generic substitution… is not in our patients’ best interest.”
Sanofi also paid 2.3 million to the North American Thrombosis
Foundation, also urging foundation members to write the FDA warning
of the “potential for unanticipated adverse events” from use of
Upon the revelation of these activities by both the press and in
Washington, two U.S. senators (Baucus was one) urged the FDA to
require physicians groups to disclose their financial ties with
Subsequently, the effectiveness of newly-crafted Obamacare
legislation mandating that all such ‘payments of value’ are to be
reported on a federal website… well, that should certainly be
[Note: It is my opinion that methods of concealing payments are
boundless- from Pepe’s Taco Shack gift certificates to reported
losses of a medical supply shell based in Luxembourg.]
As for the ‘political grandstanding’ of the Lovenex case, one
might wonder if our two Senators would have held the same position
if the manufacturer had been U.S. Pfizer and the ‘donations’ had
been earmarked to players inside the beltway as opposed to trade
Regardless, in 2010, Lovenex generics were approved by the FDA,
devastating Sanofi’s market position- dropping sales 20%, from
growth beyond the $2 billion mark down to a paltry 1.9 billion
A post in the Harvard Review blog in October 2012 points out the
touting of a Congressional vote in favor of health related
legislation as a demonstration of ‘triumphant bipartisan achievement
(House 387-5; Senate 96-1).’ The new law, PDUFA V, sets fees that
drug sponsors are to pay to the FDA for drug evaluation, covering
approximately 60% of the FDA’s budget for drug review.
“Putting aside regulatory capture, the impact of user fees on the
evaluation process, and the FDA’s actions to suppress information
that reveals how political or corporate favors lead to bad science
within the agency, one of my primary concerns with PDUFA V relates
to the expedited review process for new molecular entities (NMEs)…
NMEs are molecules that have never been approved by the FDA, and
thus carry unknown safety risks… The expedited pathway allows the
FDA to approve NMEs absent data that the product provides a clinical
benefit to patients.”
In December of 2011, an FDA advisory committee endorsed Bayer’s
birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin (Yasmin has been on the U.S.
market since 2001; Yaz entered the market in 2006).
Prior to this endorsement, it had been found that an active
ingredient in Yaz and Yasmin increase the taker’s likelihood of
serious illness, including pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke,
and thromboembolism (to name a few). The increase in possible
incident is seven times more likely than for those taking no birth
control pills at all, and twice as likely than for those taking an
alternative medication. Subsequently, thousands of Yaz and Yasmin
customers filed suit against Bayer alleging injury (and/or death).
An investigation by British medical journal BMJ and the
Washington Monthly uncovered that at least four members of the FDA
advisory committee had previously done work for Bayer, its
licensees, or were given monies to fund their research.
The committee’s conclusion? The benefits of Yaz and Yasmin
outweigh the risks… Decided by… ugh… well, by four votes.
As a postscript (Bloomberg, July 2012):
“Bayer AG (
So where is all of this headed? Who knows?
But with just one year of sales representing $1.58 billion
[I would speculate that the Bayer-influenced FDA recommendation
will stand, perhaps moderating the massive legal settlements seen
thus far. More important, although similar generics are already on
the market, I suspect that this latest FDA endorsement will open the
door for domestic drug companies to introduce new, patented, ‘safe’
contraceptives that are chemically similar (if not the same) to Yaz
After all, with the inclusion of contraception coverage as part
of Obamacare, patent-protected, birth control meds will spike both
in sales and profit maximization. And for those that considered
women’s health as the core issue regarding contraception coverage,
in the halls of Congress and countless executive boardrooms, the
true fight has been about the allocation of new dollars.]
An article posted last month by Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack
entitled, “Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker,” shows us
what has become the norm regarding Pharma-political collusion.
Within weeks of pleading guilty to fraud, L.A. based, global biotech
leader Amgen received yet another two year delay in Medicare price
restraints for a specific class of drugs including Sensipar, their
highly profitable kidney dialysis medication. The pricing extension
was hidden in a paragraph in section 632 of the Fiscal Cliff bill,
and was such a boon to Amgen that its CEO quickly referred the news
to investment analysts.
Amgen, which has an astounding 74 lobbyists in the capital, was
the only company to aggressively push for the extension. Their
lobbyists include the former chief of staff to Baucus, the same for
McConnell, and Tony Podesta’s lobbying firm, which has “unusually
close ties to the White House.” Amgen lobbyists have logged over a
dozen visits to the White House since 2009.
Focusing primarily on the Senate Finance Committee, Amgen
employees and its political action committee have provided
approximately $5 million in contributions to candidates and
committees dating back to 2007. Including, to Finance Committee
chairman Baucus: $67,750.00. The committee’s ranking Republican
Hatch: $59,000.00. An additional $73,000.00 went to McConnell, some
of it at a fund-raising event on his behalf. Amgen employees have
given more than $141,000.00 to President Obama’s campaigns.
The projected cost to Medicare (Amgen’s two-year extension):
In evaluating the impact of Obamacare as it pertains to the drug
industry, all indications are that it was a deceptive, hollow
political victory, a myriad of backroom deals, and a morass of
legislation that will continue the oppressive, inequitable
distribution of burgeoning healthcare costs onto the American
public. It is the sadly predictable outcome that the Thais simply
refer to as ‘Same-same,’ or worse.
There has been much fanfare about bipartisanship and the prospect
of ‘reaching across the aisle’ for the good of the country. Some of
this might be attributable to the release of ‘Lincoln’ in the middle
of our election season. Regardless of one’s view on possible,
proactive policies coming from such collaboration (that’s funny), I
don’t believe that ‘reaching across the aisle’ to K Street was what
Lincoln had in mind.
Regarding the passage of Obamacare, the Wall Street Journal
noted, “The White House wanted industry financial help and knew that
determined business opposition could tank the bill.”
Well, they certainly got it.
From an August 2009 article in Huff Post:
A memo obtained… confirms that the White House and the
pharmaceutical lobby secretly agreed to precisely the sort of
wide-ranging deal that both parties have been denying over the past
week… agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the
government’s leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or imports
from Canada—and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift
some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D…
In July of 2009, then President Billy Tauzin, representing PhRMA,
the largest lobbying group in the U.S.- visited the White House to
negotiate the drug industry’s positions regarding Obamacare. According
to reports, within days to a month of Tauzin’s White House visit,
Harry Reid received checks from PhRMA, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck, and
Astra-Zeneca (totaling at least $23,000.00).
Subsequent to this visit, one of numerous concessions to Big
Pharma was the death of the Dorgan Amendment, reportedly traded-out
for closing the Medicare D doughnut hole.
Huff’s Ryan Grim:
A senate Democratic aide confirmed that the doughnut-hole move
was largely made in exchange for votes to kill Dorgan’s amendment.
*** ‘Doughnut Hole:’ After beneficiaries reach a total drug
expense limit ($2,930 in 2012), they have no prescription drug
coverage until spending $3,700 out of pocket; then upon reaching the
‘catastrophic limit,’ coverage commences again. The uninsured gap
between the drug insured ceiling and the ‘catastrophic limit’ is
known as the ‘doughnut hole.’
***The Dorgan Amendment: Presently, Federal Law prohibits
Exported U.S. manufactured drugs to be re-imported. The amendment,
offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), would have lifted the ban on
re-importation. The proposal, called the Pharmaceutical Market
Access and Drug Safety Act, would have allowed American consumers to
safely import lower-priced, Food and Drug Administration-approved
drugs from abroad (esp. Canada).
The maneuvering that subsequently took place in insuring that the
Dorgan amendment was not added to the pending healthcare
legislation? Not pretty. Reid successfully coordinated a Democratic
filibuster of the amendment until cooler heads could prevail. One
such example of ‘sway’ was the Department of Health and Human
Services crafting of a letter discouraging Senators from voting in
favor of the amendment.
By any measure, the squelching of the Dorgan proposal showed the
rift between the present Democrat leadership and progressives that
are truly committed to reform regarding corporatism and its negative
impact on the public.
Huff Post’s Ryan Grim:
When the roll was called and Dodd's name was announced in the nay
column, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), betrayed his surprise loudly
enough to be heard in the press gallery. "Dodd?!" said Sanders, in a
rising stage-whisper that indicated disbelief.
In summary, David Dayen posts on FDL:
… the failure of the Dorgan amendment last night, delivering a
huge victory for the pharmaceutical industry and a blow to consumers
who could have saved over $100 billion in prescription drug costs.
30 Democrats and Joe Lieberman ended up voting against this
amendment, preserving a backroom deal between PhRMa and the White
House to limit their exposure to profit reductions in the overall
health care bill.
This failure is by no means the only win for Big Pharma in the
passing of Obamacare. Fending off price curbs and various
restrictions and rebates is just one half of the win-win. The
influx of dollars by an estimated increase of 32 million newly
insured customers more than compensates for any initial outlays made
by the drug industry during their push for passage of Obamacare.
Lastly, another concession was the inclusion of 12-year marketing
exclusivity protection for pricey, patented biologics (You’re
Before continuing—but an important note:
This article does not cover Big Pharma profits or the inaction of
Washington regarding the rampant, destructive use of Opioids— a
topic in and of itself. I find that by far the best summary of this
problem comes from an industry whose dollars are directly affected
by such a scourge: Insurance Underwriters.
Sherri Hickey/ Property Casualty 360:
The Institute of Medicine has reported that chronic pain affects
more than 116 million American adults—more than the total affected
by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined—and costs up to $635
billion a year in medical treatment and lost productivity.
Yet drug companies continue to mass-produce opioids, and
Americans are buying them. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) recently cited supporting statistics from the
National Vital Statistics System, reporting that drug companies
produced approximately 96 mg of opioids per person in 1997.
By 2007, however, they were producing 698 mg per person.. This is
enough for every American to take 5 mg of Vicodin every 4 hours for
3 weeks, resulting in an astonishing 627 percent increase in
manufacturing. The reality is that people are dying from opioid
overuse and overdose.
According to Michele Leonhart, administrator of the U.S.. Drug
Enforcement Administration, overdose deaths from prescription
opioids increased 300 percent from 1999 to 2007.
A 2011 update to the Workers’ Compensation Prescription Drug
Study, reported by the National Council on Compensation Insurance
(NCCI), says that drugs were 2 percent of total medical costs in
1990, and there was minimal use of opioids. By 2000, however,
pharmacy increased to 10 percent of medical costs, with growing use
By 2011, the pharmacy spend has increased to 19 percent of total
medical costs—and we are seeing exploding use of opioids within
"One toke over the line, my brother, just one toke over the
When I began the outline for this article, my intended focus was
to be the embracement of organic and synthetic marijuana by the FDA
and Big Pharma, and where such backroom dealings might lead the
collective ‘us.’ … And then it hit me: Why bother? Anybody with
Google and a bong can ferret this stuff out… After all, we know
where this is headed, we all know.
As the piece progressed, I fantasized that when PhaRMA
then-President Billy Tauzin secretly met with the White House to
hammer out their conditions to support Obamacare- that whether
spoken or unspoken, the real carrot dangling in the meeting was the
prospect of a FDA-sanctioned, Pharma-controlled array of Cannabis
With countless polls of American attitudes indicating acceptance
of legal marijuana, with numerous states embracing medicinal and
non-medicinal uses, with the slowing of hydrocodone and opioid
production/usage due to the decline of cost/profit ratios
(liability, death, etc.), and with the prospect of a lucrative
alternative for an aging society so plagued by pain: It should be
obvious that the emergence of this new family of Big Pharma drugs is
a slam-dunk… a very, very profitable slam-dunk.
So… there really isn’t a lot to write about concerning
Pharmajuana. As money dictates, it is rising, but not in a form that
any of us can possibly fathom- yet soon to be just one more
profitable, oppressive tool in the fabrication of this dumbed-down,
debt-ridden, Brave New Virtual World.
And the fantasy of Tauzin in the White House? Might any of us
doubt that cute, little ‘Mary Jane’ didn’t make it to the meeting
Pharmajuana… is rising.