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: Let’s Begin

Big Pharma is a billion dollar industry and in this country, money coincides with power. Big Pharma is no stranger to using their capital to gain political and social influence. Specifically, the industry wields its leverage in systems whose exclusive purpose is to serve the public: the government, the doctors’ office and the industry of food-producing animals.

I want to examine how Big Pharma has affected our nation’s public health. Are pharmaceutical companies more concerned with the well being of their customers? Or have they evolved into an entity whose actions are motivated by greed?

The following as an outline of the next seven posts.

The Big Pharma Lobby: Part 1: Depicts the history of lobbying in America and goes on to describe the billions Big Pharma has spent on lobbying. The post also mentions policies that were manipulated by Big Pharma to better coincide with the industry’s objectives.

The Big Pharma Lobby: Part 2: Further elaborates on the impacted policies.  Also explains how these regulations benefit Big Pharma and puts the nation’s public health in jeopardy.

The Role of Marketing: Part 1: Describes the consumer-oriented and physician oriented marketing strategies employed by Big Pharma. The post also talks about why it is essential for pharmaceutical companies to advertise.

The Role of Marketing: Part 2: Discusses how Big Pharma’s marketing method contributes to the country’s pill and diagnosis culture. Outlines the advertising crisis of drugs and also indicates the public health implications that stem from Big Pharma’s corrupt advertising approach.

Livestock and Superbugs: Part 1: Gives an overview of the relationship between Big Pharma, the meat industry and animal scientists. Also discusses the questionable interactions between FDA and Big Pharma.

Livestock and Superbugs: Part 2: Summarizes the health implications corresponding with feeding food-producing animals pharmaceuticals.

Conclusion: I will interpret the findings and dare to answer the questions posed earlier: Are pharmaceutical companies more concerned with the well being of their customers? Or have they evolved into an entity whose actions are motivated by greed?

Let’s get this party started!

walken

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.