Livestock and Superbugs: Part 2

Why Pharmaceuticals are Utilized

Pharmaceuticals are administered to healthy livestock for two main reasons. The first is to prevent the spread of diseases (Estabrook). Sickness runs rampant on meat farms and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) due to overcrowding and unsanitary practices (Estabrook). These farms also generate large quantities of manure, which is another carrier of diseases and illnesses.

A chicken CAFO

The second reason is to increase the animals’ rate of growth. Pharmaceutically enhanced meat is thicker, denser and plumper than that of natural meat (Peterson). The escalated growth rate and size enable farms to sell more and larger quantities of meat (Peterson).

Public Health Impacts

But these drugs are responsible for other health effects aside from their intended use. The following are some of the implications this practice has on public health.

  • Bacteria quickly evolve in the gut of livestock. Because of the overall improper use and overuse of drugs, this bacterium eventually become resistant to the pharmaceuticals ingested by the animal (Estabrook). These antibiotic and drug resistant bacteria strains, also known as superbugs, are transferred to the meat consumer (Estabrook). In turn, pharmaceutical drugs become less effective in treating illnesses across the human population (CDC).

Superbugs have been identified as “one of the world most pressing public health problems” (CDC). Every year, approximately two million people nation-wide catch a drug-resistant infection (NIH). When antibiotics do not work, people experience infections for longer periods of time and require more expensive medical help (CDC).  About 23,000 of those two million cases result in death (NIH).  Scientists have actually established a link between antibiotic use in animals and the loss of effectiveness of these drugs in human medicine (Consumers Union).

  • These Superbugs can also infiltrate the kitchen and home of the consumer. Tests have shown the presence of anti-biotic microorganisms in market poultry (Consumers Union). Raw supermarket poultry can contaminate your kitchen in a variety of ways like placing the product on a cutting board or the presence of leaking packages in the refrigerator (Consumers Union).  There is no direct evidence that implies being in the mere presence of superbug containing meat boosts an individual’s susceptibility to catching a particular illness (Consumers Union). Yet it’s worrisome to think that your own kitchen can be home to the same pathogens responsible for 23,000 deaths annually.
  • Superbugs can be transmitted throughout the environment. Farm workers are likely to obtain the resistant bacteria and carry them elsewhere in the environment (Consumer Union). Resistant bacteria can also seep into the environment via manure (Consumers Union). Oftentimes, the manure, which contains the superbugs, originating from a CAFO, is administered as a fertilizer on fields (Consumers Union).

The manure can also enter bodies of water due to the farms’ and CAFOs’ unsanitary manure disposal practices. Wind and insects can further spread the reach of superbugs meaning higher rates of exposure among habitats and wild animals.

Work Cited

Estabrook, Barry. “You Want Superbugs With That?” Food & Health, Culture & Politics. On Earth: A Survival Guide for the Planet, 27 May 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

“Facts about Antibiotic Resistance.” Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Peterson, Melody. “As Beef Cattle Become Behemoths, Who Are Animal Scientists Serving?” Opinions & Ideas. The Chronicle Review, 15 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“Stop the Spread of Superbugs: Help Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria.” Features. NIH News in Health, Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals Threatens Public Health.” Research. ConsumersUnio: Policy & Action from Consumer Reports, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.


Miller, Kevin. “Superbugs: What They Are and How You Get Them.” WebMD Health News. WebMD, 17 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.


The Role of Marketing: Part 2

Public Health Effects of Big Pharma Advertising

The Pill Culture

Drug advertisements have been criticized for perpetuating the prescription drug culture in the United States. In American society, names of drugs like Adderall and Xanax are as commonplace as Advil (Abrams). Coinciding with America’s drug culture is a diagnosis culture where conditions like erectile dysfunction or restless leg syndrome warrant prescription pills. In other countries, these ailments are simply referred to as a side effect of aging (Abrams).

The Advertising Crisis in a Nutshell

A benefit of the direct-to-consumer advertising is that people may become more informed about their treatment options. This may empower them to talk to their health care providers, resulting in better public health throughout the population (DrugWatch).

On the other hand, critics of direct-to-consumer advertising have cited that these advertisements are misleading (DrugWatch). They also encourage self-diagnosis and tend to lack the necessary information that the consumer needs in order to form a knowledgeable decision.

These advertisements not only promote a particular product but also the existence of medical conditions (DrugWatch). The goal of any advertising is to raise public awareness about an item, which leads to an increase in revenue. Pharmaceutical advertisements are no different. The objective is to draw in users and raise profits. This is accomplished through persuading people that they are in need of a certain pill by convincing them that their health is at risk.  In turn, people are more likely to consult their doctor for medications. Typically, in America, when it comes to prescription drugs, if you ask, you shall receive (Drake).

Because of the compensation many physicians receive for endorsing certain medications, doctors are urged to sing the praises of a particular product to their patients. These doctors also tend to recommend the more expensive option to further appease their Big Pharma funders (DrugWatch). In turn, more individuals may have a misdiagnosis and receive a prescription that they do not need.

So, what are the results of Big Pharma’s advertising ploy that infiltrates both the patients’ psyche and the physicians’ ethics? A misinformed and overmedicated society.

Public Health Implications of an Misinformed and Overmedicated Society

The pharmaceutical industry has contributed to the decisions that doctors and their patients make. In 1993 there were seven prescriptions written for every person in the United States, and that number climbed to twelve per person in 2004 (Ventola).

Overdose deaths: There are various kinds of prescription drugs that are highly addictive and can be potentially abused. This includes opiate painkiller, stimulants and central nervous system depressants (Volkow). More people taking prescription pills translates to more addictions and deaths. Since 1999, overdose death involving opioid pain relievers has quadrupled (Volkow). In fact, prescription drug overdoses is the third leading cause of death in the nation (Drake).

Misinforms patients: Big Pharma advertising omits important information. For example, in one study, 82% of ads made some factual claims and rational arguments for use of the advertised drug; however, only 26% of the ads described risk factors or causes of the condition (Ventola). As a result, millions upon millions do not realize that there are certain risks in taking prescription drugs; these can include weakened immune systems and sometimes addiction (Ventola).

Increases costs: Big Pharma advertising promotes expensive “me-too” or “copycat” drugs that might not offer any significant benefits over older and cheaper medications (Ventola).


Work Cited

Abrams, Micheal. “Big Pharma’s Direct to Consumer Advertsing Corrupts America’s Heath Culture.” IVN. 3 May 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Drake, Daniela. “Big Pharma is America’s New Mafia.” Organized Crime. The Daily Beast. 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Pharmaceutical Marketing.” Big Pharma. Drugwatch, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Volkow, Nora M.D. “From the Director.” National Institutes on Drug Abuse: Prescription Drug Abuse. NIH, Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Ventola, C. Lee. “Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising: Therapeutic or Toxic?” Pharmacy and Therapeutics 36.10 (2011): 669–684. Print.



America’s New Bully

Try imagining modern day society without the advancement of pharmaceuticals, where bacterial infections could mean death!  Luckily, this sort of situation is now unfathomable because of the existence of pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals facilitate the treatment of a variety of diseases and ailments in humans and animals.  Diseases that were once death sentences are now preventable and treatable.  The pharmaceutical industry researches and develops new drugs thus empowering medical practitioners and patients to chose the medication best suited for the patient’s predicament.

However, along this modern medicine journey, the United States has become the most medicated country on earth. We are suffering a silent epidemic: the over use and abuse of pharmaceuticals which includes both prescription drugs and antibiotics (National Institute on Drug Abuse). In my opinion, the blame lies in the hands of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry known as Big Pharma.  For my project I want to expose the grip that Big Pharma has on our country’s public health by investigating its influence in the three following arenas: government, the doctors’ office and the agriculture industry.

First, I am going to examine the industry’s influence on the government.  It’s no secret that corporations spend billions of dollars lobbying in order to gain favorability from lawmakers. However, I was surprised when I learned that the pharmaceutical industry spends the most in influencing members of government (Potter). I want to examine how the industry’s clout has affected the country’s public health through the mechanisms of laws and policies.

Second, I want to investigate the industry’s influence in the doctors’ office meaning physicians and patients. Approximately 70% of America’s population is taking some form of prescription drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse). I propose that the Big Pharma’s kickbacks to doctors as well as their intrusive advertising contribute to this alarming rate.

Third, about 80% of all purchased antibiotics in the country are not consumed by people but are used for food-producing animals (Bittel). In turn, I want to analyze the relationship between Big Pharma and the agriculture industry, particularly the meat industry.  Public health studies have shown that an increased use of antibiotics in animals has and will continue to lead to drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, which are a serious threat to human health.

For this project, I used a variety of sources. I will utilize science-based text to highlight Big Pharma’s implications on public health. I will also make use of the plethora of existing news articles that investigate Big Pharma’s power.

 Work Cited

Bittel, Jason. “FDA’s pitiful plea to Big Pharma: Cut back on antibiotics in meat, please.” Salon, 15  Dec. 2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

Drake, Daniela. “Big Pharma Is America’s New Mafia.” The Daily Beast, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

“Popping Pills: Prescription Drug Abuse in America.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Jan. 2014.  Web. 3 Nov, 2015

Potter, Wendall. “Big Pharma’s stranglehold on Washington.” The Center for Public Integrity. 11 Feb.  2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.