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.

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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.

Hyperlinks

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

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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).

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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.