Livestock and Superbugs: Part 1

A Love Story Called Big Pharma and the Meat Industry 

In terms of agriculture, this post will focus on the relationship between meat production and pharmaceutical companies. The following fact is important to remember while reading this post: the average weight of a cow has risen from 1,000 pounds in 1975 to 1,300 pounds in 2012 (Peterson).

Matt-Sarah-Love-Story-Beach-San-Diego.jpgThis significant increase in weight is associated with the agriculture industry’s heavy use of antibiotics, hormones, and other growth-enhancing drugs (Peterson). These drugs are also employed to prevent the spread of diseases in overcrowded factory farming (Rouke).

Background

Over the past three decades, public funding for food and agriculture research and development has leveled off (Peterson). In turn, the agricultural science sector and its agricultural universities have become increasingly dependent on financing from industries for research (Petterson). One of the largest corporate contributors to the agricultural science sector are pharmaceutical companies.

Overview of the Relationship

Big Pharma contributes to animal research by funding the agricultural universities’ animal scientists (Peterson). There are no limitations on how much corporate money animal scientists may receive. Approximately two thirds of all animal scientists have admitted to collecting funds from pharmaceutical giants (Peterson).

Agricultural universities’ financial dependence on Big Pharma has resulted in a shift of focus from ensuring public health to being an additional avenue for companies to market their drugs. Animal scientists employed by these universities are encouraged to persuade ranchers into feeding their livestock drugs (Peterson).

It’s not a tough sale, however: the beef industry reportedly earns $100 more in profit for every animal that ingests the drug (Peterson). The relationship between Big Pharma and the meat industry is mutually beneficial: both entities enjoy a raise in profits due to their co-dependence.

Distorted Research

Animal scientists commonly write scientific articles, which are financed by Big Pharma, about a particular drug (Peterson). Their findings tend to be positive due to the origins of the finances (Peterson). Additionally, findings on adverse outcomes are not made public because scientists are required to sign confidentiality clauses (Peterson).

There is a clear lack of research regarding the negative effects that the drugs have on the animals, the environment and also consumer health. Big Pharma refuses to bankroll studies that would highlight the health repercussions of such practices. This type of research is left to the whim and financial ability of the public, animal scientists and other interested parties (Peterson).

FDA’s Inadequate Regulation

The FDA and Big Pharma have always had a chummy rapport, as shown by the revolving door between the two entities and the existence of user fees. The FDA has also been sued for withholding records, on behalf of Big Pharma, pertaining to the safety of ractopamine, a drug that makes animals more muscular.

In 2013, the FDA proposed a plan to curb the use of drugs within the industry to avoid antibiotic resistance (Kar). The following three reason illustrate how the guidance was an empty gesture to confront the issue:

  1. Its voluntary meaning it only asks pharmaceutical companies to stop selling drugs for the purpose of animal growth (Kar).
  2. Allows for the use of drugs to prevent diseases. It just so happens that these same drugs speed up growth (Kar).
  3. Its effectiveness will be measure after three years and then the FDA will decide if stricter regulation is needed (Kar).

Work Cited

Kar, Avinash. “FDA announces finalization of voluntary guidance on antibiotic misuse in livestock industry.” Avinash Kar’s Blog. Switchboard: Natural Resource Defense Council Staff Blog, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. Dec. 12 2015.

Newman, Jesse. “Suit Challenging FDA Approval of Livestock-Feed products Dismissed.” Business. The Wall Street Journal, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. Dec. 13 2015.

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

Hyperlinks

Newman, Jesse. “Suit Challening FDA Approval of Lifestock-Feed Products Dismissed.” Buisness. The Wall Street Journal, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA).” User Fees. FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Wedler, Carey. “Obama’s New Appointee To Head The FDA Is A Big Pharma Mega-Lobbyist.” MintPress news, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“USA Agriculture Colleges & Universities.” Stackyard: Agriculture on the Web, n.d. Web. 13 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).

Pills

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.

 

 

The Big Pharma Lobby: Part 2

Further Elaboration on Lobbying and Public Health Implications

Lobbying Power Demonstrated

I want to start this section by providing an example of how Big Pharma has impacted governmental policies. Big Pharma’s influence in Washington is best exemplified by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (Drutman). Specifically, Medicare Part D, a key part of the act, moved millions of patients from Medicaid to Medicare. Big Pharma encouraged this shift since Medicare receives lower drug prices compared to Medicaid (NCPSSM). The act also banned Medicare, America’s largest provider of medications, from negotiating drug prices with drug companies (NCPSSM).

In turn, Medicare is forced to over-pay for drugs. Since the enactment of Medicare part D, the government is said to spend about $80 billion a year on prescription medications (NCPSSM). All the while, the pharmaceutical industry has experienced an estimated $205 billion increase in revenue in the 10 years since the act’s implementation (Drutman).

No Price Caps

The United States does not place price caps on prescription drugs. Insurance companies and government sponsored social programs typically cover the costs with a high copayments (Paris).

The pharmaceutical companies defend this lack of regulation by attesting that higher prices are necessary because it funds their research and development of new medication (Lllamas). According to PhRMA, FDA-approved drugs are expensive to produce. They argue that other countries benefit from America’s price burden through cheaper prices.

Studies have refuted this defense. It’s difficult to identify the exact cost of research and development but its safe to say that the industries’ high profits and tax breaks would cover the expenses (Llamas). Additionally, research and development is only costly when initially trying to develop a drug. Eventual modifications of the drug are relatively inexpensive in comparison (Llamas).

Martin-Shkreli.jpg
Martin Shkreli, an American entrepreneur and  pharmaceutical executive,  legally hiked the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000% overnight in September 2015.

 

Effects on Public health

  • Poorer patients are vulnerable to the ever-rising costs of drugs. They maybe unable to shoulder the costs of medications or afford the higher co pay thus making the patient less likely to fill prescriptions (Ham).
  • Skipping prescriptions has numerous health implications on society. There is an inevitable uptick in the amount of emergency room visits due to an increase in health ailments such as heart and asthma attacks. Also, its reasonable to assume an increase in deaths will ensue (Ham).

Government Sponsored Monopoly

The US law governing the pharmaceutical industry grants pharmaceutical products long term immunity from outside competition (Engelberg). Federal law bans the FDA from approving a generic alternative for at least 7-12 years (Engelberg).

Pharmaceutical companies are legally allowed to maintain monopolies on drugs for years before generics or other cheaper version may enter the marketplace. These extra options drive down prices and give more bargaining power to insurers (Ludwig).

The absence of competing products keep prices artificially high. Drug companies also have less of an incentive to create new and improved drugs (Engelberg). Why would drug companies feel compelled to develop an enhanced a version of their current product when they already control the market and price (Engelberg)? It is more economically advantageous to wait out their monopoly period.

Effects on Public health

  • Insurers, social programs and patients are forced to pay premium prices for prescriptions for longer amounts of time. Higher prices for an extensive amount of years contributes to the same public health consequences previously outlined.
  • Pharmaceutical companies will be less inclined to develop more advance versions of their product. This may equate to a decline in the medication’s overall effectiveness. The prescription will work on a majority of individuals but modifications may be needed to benefit other potential patients.

Work Cited

Drutman, Lee. “How Corporate Lobbyist Conquered American Democracy.” The Atlantic, 20 Apr. 2015. Web 10 Dec. 2015.

Engelberg, Alfred. “How Government Policy Promotes High Drug Prices” Health Affairs Blog, 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015

Ham, Becky. “Coping With the High Costs of Prescriptions.” Prepared patient Article. Center For Advancing Health (CFAH), ND. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

Llamas, Michelle. “Big Pharma Cashes in on Americans Paying (Higher) Prices for Prescription Drugs.” Drug & Device Manufacturers. DrugWacth, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. Dec. 11 2015.

Ludwig, Mike. “How Much of Big Pharma’s Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians?” Truthout, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

“Negotiating for Lower Drug Costs in Medicare Part D.” Entitled to Know. National Committee to Preserve: Social Security & Medicare (NCPSSM), n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Paris, Valerie. “Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals.” Health. PBS NEWSHOURS, 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

Hyperlinks

Pollack, Andrew. “Drug Goes From $13.50 a tablet to $750, Overnight.” Business Day. The New York Times, 20 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Pharma: Research, Progress, Hope. N.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

 

 

 

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.