Monday, March 3, 2008

Tune In...Take Drugs...

(Originally posted April 4, 2007)
I take an aspirin a day, so I'm reluctant to be a radical on the the subject of "big drug companies" ruining our lives. But I do believe they've had a profound negative effect on our quality of life. How is that possible you may ask, given the development of life-saving drugs that have also provided healthier lives for millions of Americans?

Let's clearly distinguish between the drugs themselves and their marketers.

A generation or more ago, the corner drugstore was a community gathering place, where you could visit with friends, pick up a prescription, and perhaps enjoy a milk shake at the soda fountain. Clearly, there were pharmaceutical companies -- even large ones, but they were not driven by the fierce market forces of the 21st century.

Some of you will remember the days of Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite, when the evening network news was replete with commercials for soap, breakfast food, automobiles, beer, and -- yes -- pharmaceuticals. Fast forward 50 years and discover that the Hamm's bears have gone into permanent hibernation from the airwaves, and that drug companies have come to dominate commercial time not just during the evening news -- but throughout the evening television schedule.

The enormity of the economic force wielded by big drug companies is reflected in a bit of research done by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit and non-partisan public policy organization in Washington, D.C. They report that big drug company lobbyists in Washington easily outnumber members of Congress, and that those lobbyists spent some $155 million between January 2005 and June 2006. It's little wonder that they were successful in beating back efforts by Congress to revisit a provision in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 that barred the federal government from negotiating on Medicare drug prices. The Center for Public Integrity further reports that drug lobbyists also worked hard for the protection of lucrative drug patents and the prevention of the importation of lower-priced Canadian drugs.

Three cheers to the Center for Public Integrity for its investigative efforts focusing on this timely issue. A situation that threatens to push costs for health care even farther out of sight......alongside drug company profits. You can read more about it at: It's enough to give a fella a headache. Would you please pass the aspirin?

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