Anyone who has found themselves reliant on any form of medication will know just how expensive they can be. In fact the worldwide pharmaceutical industry is worth a staggering US$300 billion a year. When you take the time to realise the huge sums of money that are involved it is hardly any wonder that companies within this industry have more than their fair share of secrets that they would rather you, the medicine buying public, did not know.
1 – “Me-Too” Drugs
In every single commercial industry that has ever existed and ever will exist there is and always will be competition between rival companies. This is particularly true if the industry in question happens to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars so it is hardly any wonder that when one pharmaceutical companies comes up with a new and potentially profitable drug all the other companies are desperate to get in on the action.
Obviously rival companies cannot simply rip off each others products because pharmaceutical companies are well known to create what can only be described as iron clad patents on their products. To get around the small issue of patents pharmaceutical companies invest huge sums of money into finding ways to ever-so-slightly altering a molecule or two. This means it is possible for rival companies to produce as many generic knockoffs as they can imagine without breaching any laws, patents or copyrights and grab their share of that juicy potential revenue.
It is certainly no secret that drug companies engage in this practice on a regular basis but what the pharmaceutical industry would rather you did not know is that while they are spending time, resources and huge sums of money on trying to legally replicated each others companies they are in fact taking all of these resources away from developing new life saving and life changing drugs with real benefits to real people. Sure, pharmaceutical companies still spend huge amounts of time and money on researching and developing new drugs but they could do so much more were they not constantly chasing each others tail in the quest for bigger and certain profits.
2- Pharmaceutical Companies Play Down Known Side Effects
Have you ever had a time in your life where your hair started to fall out in big clumps or your body started to develop huge puss-filled spots and strange rashes for no apparent reason? Well, if you can answer yes to that question there is a really good chance that this was nothing more than something that was not so clearly listed in the side effects of the medication you were on as “may cause mild skin irritation”.
You can be forgiven for thinking that drug companies are legally bound to make sure customers, in this case you, are well informed and know all potential and certain side-effects that can occur through the use of their products. The thing is drug companies are actually legally bound to document all known and potential side effects but they are are also legally allowed to spend huge sums of cash on promoting their products using any positive angle they chose. When huge sums of money are thrown at any product to promote it in a positive light a smoke screen quickly appears and clouds even the most critical of eyes.
The obvious question here is “why do doctors not make sure we all understand the side-effects?”. Well, not only do pharmaceutical companies downplay side effects to Mr Joe Public they also downplay side-effects to doctors. There is more than a good chance that when your doctor prescribes drugs to you he to is actually totally unaware of the side-effects.
Scary thought, isn’t it?
3 – Disease Mongering and Disease Rebranding
The pharmaceutical industry and all of those billions of dollars rely solely on people becoming sick. If we all woke up tomorrow and disease and illness suddenly failed to exist the industry would fail in a heartbeat. On that note it is easy to see that new diseases and illnesses can be good news for the pharmaceutical industry. A new illness means a new cure is needed and a new cure means new profits.
There are only so many illnesses that are ever going to exist or come along at anyone time so drug companies have been quick to realise that they should not only market their products they should also market the disease.
We’ve all witnessed songs that are released one year then rereleased by another artist several years later with a totally new spin on it. Drug companies have realised that if they can put a new spin on an old disease they can then put a new spin on a drug. In 2003 the huge pharmaceutical giant Glaxo did jus this when it decided to invent and publicise a new disease which was called Social Anxiety Disorder. Not only did they launch this new disease they also launch a new product and cure for it in the form of a very strong antidepressant. The medication bagged Glaxo millions, if not billions, of dollars in the quest to treat Social Anxiety Disorder but what Glaxo did not make common knowledge was that Social Anxiety Disorder was nothing more than a new name for something we all know as “shyness”.
I would guess that you are thinking that shyness is not a disease and this is what is so worrying about what pharmaceutical companies refer to as disease mongering. It would be of no surprise if some pharmaceutical company somewhere decided to rename and start treating something as common as happiness.
4 – Money Talks and So Do Bribes
When a doctor prescribes a medication it is perfectly natural for you to assume he is doing so because that medication is the best possible way to treat you and any aliment that you may have. Well, you can assume that but you would be very much wrong. Doctors, just like any other business, are more than happy to prescribe to you whichever medication comes from the manufacture that happens to be filling their pockets with the most cash.
If a doctor has the option of prescribing you one of two drugs, drug A and drug B, with drug A being the most effective with the least side effects he is still highly likely to prescribe you drug B if that is the drug which will net him the most profit.
It’s okay to be outraged by this little known fact but we do live in a society based on capitalism and most of us would do the same given half the chance.
5 – Sweatshop Manufactured
It is common knowledge that most popular clothing brands and electronic companies manufacture their products overseas, in countries where the labor is dirt cheap and workplace regulations tend to be barley existent.
Since we all imagine medication to be produced in a clean and sterile environment we all tend to think that it is manufactured in western countries under strict guidelines and controls. Believe it or not an ever increasing amount of medication is now produced in the same countries that offer cheap labor and very little in the way of workplace regulations.
It is important to realise and understand that big pharmaceutical companies are businesses just like any other business in any other industry and the bottom line here is money. If a company, even a pharmaceutical company, can produce it’s products in what is basically a sweatshop employing poor people who will work eighteen hours for fifty cents and no bathroom breaks, well, you can bet your last dollar they are going to do just that.
Just don’t expect them to shout that fact from the rooftops.