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Pharmaceuticals can be a license to print money

By Pete Dolack | Systemic Disorder | October 11, 2107

It’s no secret that the United States suffers from by far the world’s highest costs for health care. As the most market-oriented health care system among advanced capitalist countries, this is no surprise. Health care in the U.S. is designed to deliver corporate profits, not health care.

On that score, the U.S. system is quite successful. Pharmaceutical companies are at the head of the class in this regard, frequently justifying the spiraling costs of medications by citing large research and development costs that include the costs for drugs that don’t make it to market. There are many drugs that fail to survive testing and become a cost that will never be compensated, that is true. But are these failures really so high to justify the extreme costs of successful drugs?

It would seem not. Firmer proof of that lack of justification has been published by the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, which found that revenue for cancer drugs far outstrips spending on research and development. The article, “Research and Development Spending to Bring a Single Cancer Drug to Market and Revenues After Approval,” prepared by Drs. Vinay Prasad and Sham Mailankody, found that revenue from 10 drugs (one by each of 10 companies) exceed those companies’ total research and development costs by more than seven times.

The total revenue hauled in from these 10 drugs did vary considerably. Two of them earned more than US$20 billion after approval. Both of these high performers cost less than $500 million in research and development costs. The revenue from each of the 10, however, exceeded costs, with widely varied margins. Still profitable: The median revenue of these 10 drugs was $1.7 billion, more than double the median development cost of $648 million, the JAMA Internal Medicine authors report.

The authors write that the median cost to develop a cancer drug represents “a figure significantly lower than prior estimates,” adding that their analysis “provides a transparent estimate of R&D spending on cancer drugs and has implications for the current debate on drug pricing.”

To obtain these figures, the authors analyzed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissions filings for pharmaceutical companies with no drugs on the U.S. market that received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a cancer drug from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2015. Cumulative R&D spending was estimated from initiation of drug development activity to date of approval. Earnings were tracked from the time of approval to March 2017.

The sky’s the limit for pharmaceutical prices

The increase in pharmaceutical prices (blue) versus the general increase in commodities prices (red).

Another way of looking at this would be to examine the increases in the cost of pharmaceuticals against other products. Here again the numbers stand out. Using data gathered by the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, the consumer price index for pharmaceutical preparation manufacturing for the first quarter of 2017 was 747.8, with January 1, 1980, as the benchmark of 100. In other words, the price of pharmaceuticals is seven and half times higher than they were at the start of 1980. (See graph above.)

How does that compare with inflation or other products? Quite well — for pharmaceutical companies. That more than sevenfold increase in drug prices is an increase nearly two and half times greater than inflation for the period, and nearly four times that of all commodities.

So, yes, unconscionable price-gouging is the cause here. By the industry as a whole, not simply individuals like “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, who might be an outlier in his brazenness but not in his profit-generation plan.

Although not the entire picture, this snapshot of corporate extortion plays a significant role in why the cost of the United States not having a universal health care system is more than $1.4 trillion per year.

Among 19 broadly defined “major” industrial sectors in the U.S., health technology is again expected to be found the most profitable for 2016, with a profit margin of 21.6 percent. Higher even than finance at 17 percent. When narrowing to more specific, narrowly defined industry categories, generic pharmaceuticals sit at the top with an expected 30 percent profit margin for 2016. Major pharmaceuticals rank fourth at 25.5 percent on a list in which health products and finance claim nine of the top 10 spots.

The sky’s the limit for pharmaceutical profits

That’s a repeat of 2015, when health technology had the highest profit margin of 19 broadly defined industrial sectors, at 20.9 percent, topping even finance, the second highest. When a separate study broke down profit margins by more specific industry categories, health care-related industries comprised three of the six most profitable.

Nothing new there, either. A BBC report found that pharmaceuticals and banks tied for the highest average profit margin in 2013, with five pharmaceutical companies enjoying a profit margin of 20 percent or more — Pfizer, Hoffmann-La Roche, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly. The world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical corporations racked up a composite US$90 billion in profits for 2013, according to the BBC analysis. As to their expenses, these 10 firms spent far more on sales and marketing than they did on research and development.

If those facts and figures aren’t enough, here’s another way of looking at excessive profits — a 2015 study found that, of the 10 corporations that have the highest revenue per employee among the world’s biggest corporations, three are health care companies. Two of the three, Amerisourcebergen and McKesson, both distribute pharmaceuticals, and the other, Express Scrips, administers prescription drug benefits for tens of millions of health-plan members. Each of these primarily operates in the United States, the only advanced-capitalist country without universal health coverage.

The extra layers represented by those three companies demonstrate that there are ample opportunities for corporate profiteering that contribute to extraordinarily high health care costs in the U.S., beyond drug manufacturing and insurance.

And because corporations have the ear of politicians and other government officials, it’s no surprise that one of the primary ongoing goals of the U.S. government for so-called “free trade” agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is to impose rules that would weaken the national health care systems of other countries. This was done in TPP negotiations at the direct behest of U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies, incensed that countries like New Zealand make thousands of medicines, medical devices and related products available at subsidized costs.

By far the most expensive system while delivering among the worst outcomes and leaving tens of millions uninsured, where tens of thousands die from lack of health care annually. That is the high cost of private profit in health care. Or, to put it more bluntly, allowing the “market” to decide health outcomes instead of health care professionals.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stop Suicide By Helping Big Pharma, Says Shady Suicide Prevention Group

By Martha Rosenberg | CounterPunch | August 23, 2017

Next month, hundreds across the country will participate in “Out of the Darkness” walks to raise awareness about suicide and to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

AFSP and similar groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Active Minds claim there are “stigmas” and “barriers” to treatment for mental illness and there is not enough “awareness.” Two facts are missing in their messaging.

First, with as much as a fourth of some U.S. populations on antidepressants and ubiquitous quizzes and ads for them, there is neither a lack of “awareness” ––or are the drugs working. Why are suicides at an all time high at the same time psychoactive drug use is at an all time high?

Secondly, the groups are funded by Pharma to increase drug use and are widely considered unethical front groups, also called astroturf.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, founded in 1987, is steeped in Pharma money. In 2008, AFSP merged with the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA or SPAN which had announced in 2004 that “SPAN USA’s efforts to develop and expand its suicide survivor network received a major boost with a recent grant from Eli Lilly and Company Foundation,” and “The foundation generously provided funding to support training, education and collaborative opportunities for SPAN USA’s existing network and enable further expansion into all 50 states.” No lack of transparency there.

In AFSP’s 2009 report, its leading donors were Pharma companies and it attributes a new screening project to “funding from Eli Lilly and Co., Janssen, Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.” It also credits Eli Lilly for printing its brochures. No lack of transparency there, either.

In 2011, AFSP appointed psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff president of the organization until his troubles began. Nemeroff became the subject of a congressional inquiry and was found to have so much unreported Pharma income, the $9.3 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study depression that he managed was suspended, which happens rarely. He left Emory University in disgrace.

A 1999 textbook written by Nemeroff and his colleague Alan Schatzberg was found, in 2010, to be written and funded by GlaxoSmithKline. Both Nemeroff and Schatzberg remain at AFSP and are termed “leaders.”

AFSP’s 2012 annual report reveals a $100,000 donation from Forest Laboratories, and donations from Eli Lilly, Pfizer and five other Pharma companies.

“AFSP also boasts the honor of having a former president – David Shaffer – who was responsible for leading the development of the now somewhat infamous TeenScreen,” writes Mad in America. “TeenScreen is a controversial tool that Marcia Angell (Harvard Professor and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine)…described as, “just a way to put more people on prescription drugs.

The now defunct TeenScreen which screened young people for early signs of depression had “ties to the pharmaceutical industry,” reported the Scientific American.

Screening and intervention are widely accepted now to be nothing but sales tools—even to the mainstream medical establishment. In “How We Do Harm,” Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society and an oncologist, devotes a chapter to how prostate screening is often done just for money sometimes with disastrous and deadly results.

AFSP’s annual report names Pharma companies Sunovion, Janssen, Forest, Pfizer and Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals as financial donors. AFSP also named Phil Satow, former Forest executive, to its Project 2025 Advisory Committee. Satow has worked for many Pharma companies and is co-founder and board chair of the very pro-drug JED Foundation.

Preventing Suicides or Causing Them?

While SSRIs can be useful in some depressions, they can also cause suicide–a fact written clearly on all their package inserts. In 2005, after meeting with parents whose children killed themselves on the drugs and public health officials, the FDA attached the following “Black Box” warning to SSRI antidepressants.

Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of PAXIL [one SSRI] or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Families and caregivers should be advised of the need for close observation and communication with the prescriber.

One chilling demonstration of the danger to young adults is seen in the military where SSRI use and suicides have reached astounding proportions. More than a third of the deaths were in soldiers who never deployed so combat stress was not a factor.

Both NAMI and Active Minds swoop down on campuses after suicides to suggest that not enough antidepressants are being prescribed–despite the clear dangers posed for that age group and sometimes without knowing if the victim was already on the pushed drugs. To remove the fabricated stigma to mental problems, Pharma funded groups visit public schools to suggest more young people should be on drugs. They even produce posters with the message that mental illness is “cool.” Their efforts may not help the young people but they sure help Pharma.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Universal Vaccinations for Children will be Overseen by Committee which Accepts Vaccine Manufacturer Monies

By Janet Phelan – New Eastern Outlook – 10.12.2015

A House of Representatives Bill, short titled “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2015,” has been referred to the Subcommittee on Health and is awaiting committee action.

HR  2232 was introduced by Frederica Wilson, Democrat from Florida and is largely modeled on the California student vaccination act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in June of this year.

Like the California Act, HR 2232 removes all previous exemptions from vaccination, other than a medical exemption, supported by a medical doctor’s statement that a particular vaccination would be hazardous to a specific child’s well- being. Gone are the religious exemptions and philosophical exemptions.

Previously, forty-eight states had laws on the books honoring religious exemptions and nineteen states allowed philosophical exemptions.

This Act would override any state law governing vaccine exemptions, making it mandatory for all students at public elementary and secondary schools to be vaccinated. The bill would amend the Public Health Services Act to require students “to be vaccinated in accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.” (ACIP)

The bill does not, however, reveal which vaccinations would be mandatory nor does it place a cap on vaccinations.

The above cited Advisory Committee, which will be making the decisions concerning which shots are mandatory, is stacked with pro-vaccination heavyweights. Notable committee members include a Dr. Kelly Moore, Director, Tennessee Immunization Program, Dr. Edward Belongia, Director, Center for Clinical Epidemiology & Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation  and Dr. Kathleen Harriman, Chief, Vaccine Preventable Disease Epidemiology Section with the California Department of Public Health, to name a few. Also sitting on the Committee as Ex Officio members are Department of Defense (DoD) officials as well as FDA officials and members of the Department of Veterans Affairs, among representatives from other federal agencies.

Dollars for Docs

A close scrutiny of this Advisory Committee reveals that quite a number of its members are enriching themselves through vaccine industry “donations” or grants.

For example, some of these individuals have a history which includes industry sponsorship or employment. An example is Dr. Belongia, who has been listed as Co-Principal Investigator for an industry sponsored study of effectiveness of quadrivalent influenza vaccine in children.

According to Propublica, a number of these vaccine experts on the Advisory Committee are accepting large sums of vaccine company money. Dr. Gregory Poland, who is with the American College of Physicians and also the Mayo Clinic, has received a total of $17,351.00 from vaccine manufacturers Novartis Vaccines and Sanofi Pasteur. The money changed hands, according to Propublica, for activities by Dr. Poland listed as promotional speaking, consulting and travel and food expenses from November 2013 through December 2014.

Dr. Stanley Grogg, a “Liaison Member” of the Committee and with American Osteopathic Association (AOA), was rewarded for his “promotional speaking” activities, as well as “consulting,” “travel and lodging” and of course the ubiquitous “food and beverage” — to the tune of  $60,391.00. These payments were made during the period of August 2013 through December 2014 and came from a buffet of pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Sanofi, Novartis Vaccines and GlaxoSmithKline, among others.

Dr. Kenneth Schmader is listed as a “Liaison Member” of the ACIP, due to his position with the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). He is a Professor of Medicine-Geriatrics and Geriatrics Division Chief at Duke University and Durham VA Medical Centers in Durham, NC. Dr. Schmader received $75,913.79 for research, paid by Merck, Sharp and Dohme Corporation during the program year 2014.

Dr. Carol Baker, a “Liaison member” and with Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) , also works as a Professor of Pediatrics with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Baker was also found to have received $37,514.00 from August 2013-December 2014 for speaking, consulting, lodging and eating. The usual suspects pop up as the vaccine manufacturers who contributed to Dr. Baker—Novartis and Pfizer making the majority of the contributions.

Not to be left in the dust, Dr. William Schaffner, a “Liaison Member” from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and the Chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, received a total payment of $26,208 in the two year period from Pfizer and Sanofi Pasteur. The total paid Dr. Schaffner for travel and lodging came to $13,653.00.

Committee member Dr. Ruth Karron, who is listed as  Professor and Director at the Center for Immunization Research, Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, received $ $7,173 from GlaxoSmithKline for consulting from April-December, 2009, while Dr. Lee Harrison of Pittsburgh was paid a total of $27,663.00 by Glaxo and Pfizer, from 2009-2012.

Besides direct payments to pro- vaccine committee members from the pharmaceutical companies, there are other revenue streams gracing ACIP committee members. While this reporter did not find evidence that Advisory Committee member Dr. Arthur Reingold had received the above types of monies from Big Pharma, his name surfaced in connection with an effort to shut down a Professor whose work challenged the conventional wisdom that AIDS was mortally impacting large numbers of Africans. Reingold was assigned to “investigate” professor Peter Duesberg for “misconduct,” surrounding Duesberg’s findings that figures on AIDS deaths in Africa had been deliberately inflated.

As it turned out, Dr. Arthur Reingold had received over $37 million for AIDS research since 1988. Professor Duesberg was subsequently exonerated of the charges.

Dr. David Stephens, a voting member of the Committee, also did not show up on the Propublica list of doctors who took money from pharmaceutical companies. Stephens, whose bio states he has “led research initiatives in the School of Medicine” (at Emory University), is responsible for Emory researchers receiving “$521.8 million from eternal funding agencies in fiscal year 2014.” 

Stephens also hobnobs with the Vaccine Dinner Club, which exists to “advance the practice of vaccine science by stimulating the intellectual potential and research productivity of the vaccine research community in the Southeast…”

Dinners and membership in the club are free, sponsored by Emory University and other organizations. I guess with a half billion dollars knocking around in your pocket, a free lunch for your fellow scientists wouldn’t be much of an issue.

Stephens also sits on the Board of Directors for Georgia Bio, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the growth of Georgia’s life sciences industry. Also represented on the Georgia Bio Board are vaccine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies: Johnson and Johnson, Geovax, Arbor Pharmaceuticals, Immucor, Osmotica Pharmaceutical Company and Femasys.

Georgia Bio was contacted by this reporter, who wished to query what, if any, compensation Stephens received for his service on the Board. Jennifer Kauffman, Development Director, promptly hung up rather than answer.

Should HR 2232 be approved by the US Congress, it is this Advisory Committee which will decide which vaccinations American children must receive. The clear conflict of interest inherent in Committee members padding their wallets with money from the pharmaceutical industry realistically should disqualify the members from making these critical decisions.

Opaque Government

These conflicts of interest are not new for the ACIP. As reported over fifteen years ago by the National Vaccine Information Center,  previous conflicts of interest ranged from  the ACIP chairman owning stock in vaccine giant Merck, to other financial ties between committee members and  vaccine companies. In addition, the National Vaccine Information Center reported that the mandated financial disclosures filed by committee members were incomplete, rendering a full accounting of their financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies difficult, if not impossible.

Regarding the compensation paid by the CDC to ACIP members, CDC reports that;“Appointments are not remunerated. However, members are compensated for expenses incurred by attendance at meetings. Such compensation, which includes the issuance of airline tickets, per diem to cover lodging, meals and incidental expenses will be in accordance with DHHS/CDC travel rules. An optional honorarium of $250/day for each day that a member attends an ACIP meeting is offered to voting members, who are designated as Special Government Employees during their tenure on the Committee.” 

Radio show host (Wise Women Media) Anita Stewart contributed research to this report. This reporter requested that Stewart contact the CDC to query what sort of compensation the ACIP members received, as the CDC will no longer respond to public records or media requests from this reporter. This blacklisting took place following the publication of an article in Activist Post, indicating that the CDC was deflating the numbers of biological weapons labs.

Stewart, who located the above information on ACIP compensation online, was questioned by CDC media officer Sonny Dill, who kept insisting that Stewart was I. Dill also wanted to know who Stewart worked for, stating this information was necessary before answering any questions. Stewart, who was forthcoming in response, reports that Dill declined to supply the information requested.

December 10, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal

By Joyce Nelson | CounterPunch | October 7, 2015

We still don’t know all the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal tentatively agreed to on Oct. 5 by negotiators from 12 Pacific Rim countries, but already critics are slamming it for many reasons, including its generous concessions to the pharmaceutical industry.

Doctors Without Borders claims the TPP will “go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries.” [1] That’s because the TPP will extend patent protection for brand-name drugs, thereby preventing similar generic drugs (which are far less costly) from entering the market. This will drive up the prices.

Judit Rius Sanjuan, legal policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders, told vox.com that TPP creates patent-related obligations in countries that never had them before. People in “Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico” will be especially affected, she said. “They’ll face higher prices for longer periods of time.” [2]

Ruth Lopert, a professor at George Washington University, told Bloomberg News that provisions in the TPP agreement will affect health-care budgets and drug access in all signatory countries, but especially the poorest. “She said as many as 40,000 people in Vietnam, the poorest country in the agreement, could stop getting drugs to fight HIV because of provisions that will boost the price of [pharmaceutical] therapy.” [3]

Other countries like Canada will also be hit with higher costs. The Council of Canadians says that if the TPP is ratified, “[p]harmaceutical patents will be extended, delaying the release of more affordable generic drugs and adding $2 billion to our annual public health care bill.” [4] In the U.S., many people already cannot afford to pay for the expensive medicines that could save their lives, and they try to access generics available elsewhere.

Extending patent rights for life-saving drugs is an obvious gift to Big Pharma. Conor J. Lynch at opendemocracy.net has called it “a clear corporate handout that would greatly affect international access and most definitely cause preventable deaths. The clear objective here is to increase industry profits, plain and simple. This is not surprising, that’s what private industry does, but there is a serious moral dilemma here.” [5] That moral dilemma is made even more apparent by recent findings.

Tax Cheats

In an ironic coincidence, the TPP agreement was reached on the same day that a damning report on corporate tax-avoidance – Offshore Shell Games 2015 – was released by Citizens for Tax Justice and the US Public-Interest Research Group Education Fund. The report reveals the extent to which top U.S. companies use tax havens like Bermuda, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands, and the Netherlands to set up “tax haven subsidiaries” that are usually little more than a post-office box.

Of the top 30 Fortune 500 companies with the most money held in offshore tax-havens, nine are pharmaceutical companies: Pfizer ($74 billion held offshore), Merck ($60 billion), Johnson & Johnson ($53.4 billion), Proctor & Gamble ($45 billion), Amgen ($29.3 billion), Eli Lilly ($25.7 billion), Bristol Myers Squibb ($24 billion), AbbeVie Inc. ($23 billion), and Abbott Laboratories ($23 billion). [6]

Concerning Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker (declared profits of $22 billion in 2013), the report states: “The company made more than 41 percent of its sales in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014, but managed to report no federal taxable income for seven years in a row. This is because Pfizer uses accounting techniques to shift the location of its taxable profits offshore. For example, the company can transfer patents for its drugs to a subsidiary in a low- or no-tax country. Then when the U.S. branch of Pfizer sells the drug in the U.S., it ‘pays’ its own offshore subsidiary high licensing fees that turn domestic profits into on-the-books losses and shifts profit overseas.”

Overall, the study found that the 500 largest U.S. companies hold more than US$2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore. “For many companies, increasing profits held offshore does not mean building factories abroad, selling more products to foreign customers, or doing any additional real business activity in other countries,” but simply establishing a PO box.

Some companies use the money supposedly “trapped” offshore as “implied collateral” in order to borrow funds at negligible rates for investing in U.S. assets, paying dividends to shareholders, or repurchasing stock.

Of course, as the report makes clear, “Congress, by failing to take action to end this tax avoidance, forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.”

The report finds that, through a variety of tax-avoidance measures, an estimated US$620 billion in U.S. taxes is collectively owed by the 500 largest companies with headquarters in the U.S.

Corporate Coup

Now the TransPacific Partnership – which is being called “NAFTA on steroids” – would award Big Pharma and other multinationals even more corporate “rights” in more countries, including the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism by which they can sue signatory governments for regulatory changes that affect their profits.

As the Canadian website rabble.ca notes: “The Canadian government is currently being sued through NAFTA by Eli Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company, for invalidating the firm’s patent extensions on two mental health drugs. A Canadian Federal Court decided in 2010 that the patent extensions had not delivered the promised benefits and the drugs should therefore be opened up to generic competition. Generic drugs significantly reduce the cost for end users, but Eli Lilly cried foul and launched an ISDS claim against the government, demanding US$500 million in compensation for lost profits. The case is still in progress, but regardless of the outcome we can expect the TPP to lead to similar ISDS disputes. Powerful multinational pharmaceutical companies will use any available means to cling to over-priced drug monopolies. Greater intellectual property protections in the TPP will give these companies an even stronger quasi-legal basis to sue governments and crowd out generic [drug] competition.” [7]

The final text of the TransPacific Partnership agreement won’t be available for at least a month, likely weeks after the Canadian federal election on October 19. The details will undoubtedly reveal more generous concessions to the multinationals. It will be up to the elected legislators in all twelve countries to approve or reject the TPP. In Canada, NDP leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to scrap the deal if elected as Prime Minister, explaining that the Stephen Harper government had no mandate to sign it during an election campaign when it is merely a “caretaker” government.

The U.S. website zerohedge.com calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a Trojan horse” and “a coup by multinational corporations who want global subservience to their agenda.” In no uncertain terms, it adds: “Buyer beware. Citizens beware.” [8]

Footnotes/Links:

[1] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/latest/tranpacific-partnership-deal-reached/story-e6frg90f-1227558154056

[2] Julia Belluz, “How the Trans-Pacific Partnership could drive up the cost of medicine worldwide,” Vox, October 5, 2015.
http://www.vox.com/2015/10/5/9454511/tpp-cost-medicine

[3] “Pacific Deal Rewrites Rules on Trade in Autos, Patented Drugs,” Bloomberg News, October 5, 2015.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-05/pacific-deal-rewrites-rules-on-trade-in-autos-patented

[4] Council of Canadians, “Tell party leaders: Reject the TPP,” October 6, 2015.

[5] Conor J. Lynch, “Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Big Pharma giveaway,” Open Democracy, February 14, 2015.
http://www.opendemocracy.net/conor-j-lynch/transpacific-partnership%E2/80%/99s-big-pharma-giveaway

[6] http://ctj.org/ctjreports/2015/10/orrshore_shell_games_2015.php//executive

[7] Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, “Trans-Pacific Partnership a big win for corporate interests,” Rabble.ca, October 6, 2015.

[8] Tyler Durden, “Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal Struck As ‘Corporate Secrecy’ Wins Again,” Zero Hedge, October 5, 2015.
http://www.zerohedge.com

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporations shell out $1.2mn in Senate contributions to fast-track TPP

RT | May 28, 2015

Records from the Federal Election Commission show corporations have been donating tens of thousands of dollars to Senate campaign coffers, particularly to lawmakers who were undecided over a controversial trade deal involving Pacific Rim countries.

Using data from the Federal Election Commission, the Guardian studied donations from the corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – to US Senate campaigns between January and March 2015, when debate over the trade deal was ramping up.

What the documents showed was that out of a total of nearly $1.2 million given, an average of $17,000 was donated to each of the 65 “yes” votes. Republicans received an average of $19,000 and Democrats received $9,700.

“It’s a rare thing for members of Congress to go against the money these days,” Mansur Gidfar, spokesman for the anti-corruption group Represent.Us, told the Guardian. “They know exactly which special interests they need to keep happy if they want to fund their re-election campaigns or secure a future job as a lobbyist.”

Fast-tracking the TPP means voting to allow President Barack Obama to negotiate a deal without permitting Congress to amend the final document. The Senate first voted to debate Trade Promotion Authority – the fast-track bill – by a 65-33 margin on May 14. On May 21, lawmakers voted 62-37 to bring the debate on TPA to a close and pass the bill.

Little is known about the specifics of the trade deal. According to a draft document leaked by WikiLeaks, the pact would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia, such as the ability to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings – federal, state or local – before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.

Besides the United States, the accord would include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Most business interests support the Pacific Rim deal while labor groups have said it will cost American jobs and suppress wages.

Just two days before the fast-track vote, when Obama’s trade deal lacked a filibuster-proof majority, six out of eight Democrats who were on the fence decided to vote in favor of fast-track. Senators Michael Bennett (Colorado), Patty Murray (Washington) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) all received contributions totaling $105,900 combined. Bennett alone received $53,700.

The other Democrats who voted in favor were Dianne Feinstein (California), Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Bill Nelson (Florida), though it’s unclear if they received contributions.

“How can we expect politicians who routinely receive campaign money, lucrative job offers, and lavish gifts from special interests to make impartial decisions that directly affect those same special interests?” Gidfar told the Guardian. “As long as this kind of transparently corrupt behavior remains legal, we won’t have a government that truly represents the people.”

In comparison, almost 100 percent of Senate Republicans voted for fast-tracking the TPP, with “no” votes from Louisiana and Alaska. Seven of those Republicans are running for re-election in 2016 and received contributions to their campaigns – Senators Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Roy Blunt (Missouri) John McCain (Arizona), Richard Burr (NC), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Tim Scott (SC).

According to the Federal Election Commission documents, most of the donations came from corporations like Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.

Read more: EU drops controls on dangerous chemicals after TTIP pressure from US – report

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stop Corporate Welfare Kings

By Ralph Nader | CounterPunch | April 17, 2015

“Tax day” comes and goes each year, but unfortunately, the systemic issues that plague American taxpayers linger on without resolution well past the mid-April deadline.

The U.S. tax code has long been manipulated by corporate lobbyists and their corporate tax attorneys. (President Jimmy Carter once called the loophole-ridden tax laws “a disgrace to the human race.”) A primary purpose of these perforations is to arrange the law and regulations so that certain categories of profit-rich companies can avoid paying their fair share to Uncle Sam.

In many states, it is a literal race to the bottom for elected officials to offer corporations sweeter tax deals to keep jobs in their locality — see the 2013 Boeing controversy in the state of Washington, in which the aerospace industry, much of which is made up of Boeing, was awarded $8.7 billion in tax breaks over 16 years to produce the 777X jetliner in-state. Notably, Boeing paid zero in federal income tax that year — along with many other major U.S. corporations such as GE and Verizon. Some of these Fortune 500 companies even get a rebate check!

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, “American Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $600 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding more than $2.1 trillion” of retained profits offshore, which they designate as “permanently reinvested” to avoid a tax liability.

And of course, millionaires and billionaires often pay less in taxes than middle-class Americans do, taking full advantage of tax loopholes, deductions, deferrals and other forms of creative accounting. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives now intends to pass legislation to repeal the estate tax, which would see that “vast amounts of money that has never been taxed will be passed tax-free to the heirs of today’s billionaires,” according to Scott Klinger of the Center for Effective Government.

The end result is that, through a myriad of tax avoidance schemes, the wealthy 1 percent continue to profit using public resources, subsidies and infrastructure while the 99 percent disproportionately pay the bills for it — all while struggling to pay their own bills, mortgages, student loans, and more. And when Wall Street runs amok, it’s the taxpayers who have paid the bills for the catastrophic damage as a result of regulatory surrender. Millions of these taxpayers also lost their jobs and pensions in the 2008-2009 Wall Street collapse of our economy.

This brings us to the Internal Revenue Service — which has been made into a dirty word to many Americans. Those Americans might be surprised to learn, however, that the current IRS enforcement budget is $10.9 billion, after a cut of $346 million from the previous year. To put that in perspective, Apple Inc. spent $14 billion just to buy back its own stock last year, a move that only serves to provide a meager benefit, if that, to its shareholders, while nourishing executive compensation packages.

The IRS loses an estimated $300 billion a year due to tax evasion. A budget proposal by the Obama administration claimed that the IRS could bring in an additional $6 for every dollar it adds to the enforcement budget. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that he pushes this very convincing point in Congress to little reception or reaction. “I say that and everybody shrugs and goes on about their business,” he told the AP in 2014. “I have not figured out either philosophically or psychologically why nobody seems to care whether we collect the revenue or not.”

The effects of these budgetary cuts are already being seen. Current staffing levels at the IRS are at 87,000 — the lowest since the early 1980s. The agency lost 13,000 employees from 2010 to 2014 and expects to lose another 3,000 this year. In the final stretch towards April 15, many taxpayers have experienced excruciatingly long waits on hold and long lines at local IRS offices as a result. Congress doesn’t care. (National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates independently within the IRS, detailed this degradation of service in her annual report to Congress. (See taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov.)

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has gone so far as to publicly state his intention to abolish the IRS entirely, calling that radical course of action the “simplest and best tax reform.” It’s not clear how Senator Cruz intends the federal government to collect revenue to pay for his presidential salary, the White House budget and expanding his giant military budget if he should be elected and not recover his senses.

It is clear, however, that significant rational tax reform is necessary. What remains unclear is who will benefit the most from such reform. Americans must seriously ask why individual U.S. taxpayers are fronting the money for hugely profitable corporations. These are funds that could potentially be used to repair critical public infrastructure, create decently paying jobs, or simply reduce the tax burden on middle-income individuals.

One solution to ensure that the interests of small taxpayers are accounted for and protected is to establish taxpayer watchdog associations across the country. These organizations would work full-time in each state to make sure that individual taxpayers get the best deal possible. After all, big corporations can afford to support an army of tax accountants and attorneys to continually update the playbook of tactics to avoid having to pay their fair share. Most taxpayers don’t have this luxury. What they do have, however, is sheer force of numbers. Organization of such watchdog organizations could be facilitated by including a notice on the 1040 tax return inviting people to pay a small due and join these advocacy and educational nonprofit groups. These associations would be supported by membership dues and would receive no tax money. The members would elect a board of directors that could hire researchers, organizers, accountants and lawyers.

Such pressure from united citizen bodies would provide the organizational mechanism to enhance the influence of individuals in the tax-collection and policy-making process — something that is much-needed in our current American plutocracy.

A simple motto to consider when asking what we choose to tax is: “Tax what they burn, not what we earn.” Before we place the largest burdens of taxation on workers, we should tax areas that have the greatest potential negative or damaging influence on our economy and our society. Tax the polluters, the Wall Street speculators, the junk-food peddlers, and the corporate criminals. Consider that just a fraction of a 1-percent sales tax on speculation in derivatives and trading in stocks could bring in $300 billion a year! (See robinhoodtax.org.)

If taxpayers really want to protect their interests, they must organize and fight for them. The corporations certainly have the money — but they can’t match the manpower or votes of an organized citizenry.

In the meantime, big corporations on welfare like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Pfizer, General Electric, Weyerhaeuser, and ExxonMobile should declare April 15 to be Taxpayer Appreciation Day. The corporate welfare kings should have the decency to, at least, thank smaller taxpayers who pay for all the freeloading that the corporatists have rammed through Congress. (See goodjobsfirst.org for much more on this issue.)

Follow Ralph Nader on Twitter : www.twitter.com/RalphNader

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Read This Before You Take That Statin

By Barbara Roberts and Martha Rosenberg | Dissident Voice | December 10, 2013

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently released new cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines. They are an egregious example of much that is wrong with medicine today.

The guidelines propose a vast expansion of the use of statins in healthy people, recommending them for about 44 percent of men and 22 percent of healthy women between the ages of 40 and 75. According to calculations by John Abramson, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, 13,598,000 healthy people for whom statins were not recommended based on the 2001 guidelines now fall into the category of being advised to take moderate or high intensity statin therapy.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to “build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.” Yet in its 2011-2012 financial statement, the AHA noted $521 million in donations from non-government and non-membership sources and many well-known large drug companies, including those who make and market statins, contribute amounts in the $1 million range.

Even as many in the medical community suspected the guidelines were a ploy to help the AHA’s drug partners sell statins, it was revealed that the guideline’s online calculator to determine cardiac disease risk over predicts risk by an astonishing 75 to 150 percent. But the guideline writers are standing firmly behind their faulty calculator.

Seven of the 15 authors disclosed ties to industry. Originally, the panel chair, Neil J. Stone, MD of Northwestern University, declared that he has had no ties to industry since 2008. Jeanne Lenzer, writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently, interviewed Dr. Stone who said: “When I was asked by NHLBI [National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute] to chair the [cholesterol] panel, I immediately severed ties with all industry connections prior to assuming my role as chair.” However, prior to 2008, he accepted funding and consultancy fees from multiple pharmaceutical companies, including Abbott, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, and Schering-Plough among others. Dr. Stone also told the BMJ that he will “definitely” not take any industry funding for two years. Are we to believe that by severing his ties in 2008 his mind became an instant tabula rasa, completely devoid of any conscious or unconscious bias towards the drug companies which had been paying him? To do so strains the bonds of credulity past the breaking point.

The financial ties between large pharmaceutical companies and the AHA are numerous and very remunerative for the AHA, including huge donations from Abbott, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer. BMS, along with Merck and Pfizer, are major funders of AHA’s Go Red For Women heart disease awareness campaign whose web site tells patients “If your doctor has placed you on statin therapy to reduce your cholesterol, you can rest easy–the benefits outweigh the risks” The site also proclaims that , “Zocor and Pravachol–have the fewest side effects,” and “statins may only slightly increase diabetes risks.” The Women’s Health Initiative, a federal study of over 160,000 healthy women to investigate the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women, showed that a healthy woman’s risk of developing diabetes was increased 48 percent compared to women who were not on a statin. And contrary to what statin apologists say about statins only increasing diabetes risk in people who are at high risk of developing it anyway, for example the obese, women on statins in the Women’s Health Initiative who were of normal weight increased their risk of diabetes 89 percent compared to same weight women not taking a statin.

In 2010, AHA received $21,000 from statin maker AstraZeneca to run an AHA course about “emerging strategies with statins” at the Discovery Institute of Medical Education and almost $100,000 for learning projects including “debating controversial topics in cardiovascular disease.” The AHA defended the deceptively marketed and controversial cholesterol drug Vytorin. Did that have anything to do with the $2 million a year the AHA was taking from marketer Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals?

The AHA also rakes in millions from food companies which are also million dollar donors and which pay from $5,490 to $7,500 per product to gain the “heart-check mark” imprimatur from the AHA, renewable, at a price, every year. The foods so anointed have to be low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol yet Boar’s Head All Natural Ham (340 milligrams of sodium in a 2-ounce serving) somehow made the cut as did Boar’s Head EverRoast Oven Roasted Chicken Breast (440 milligrams of sodium in a 2-ounce serving). Such processed, high-sodium meats raise blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of diabetes. A review of almost 1,600 studies involving one million people in ten countries on four continents showed that a 1.8-ounce daily serving of processed meat raised the risk of diabetes by 19 percent and of heart disease by 42 percent.

The new guidelines might make sense if statins were truly as effective as their proponents claim, and if they had no adverse effects. But they have an increasing list of side effects, which affect at least 18 percent of people who take them. These range from muscle pain, weakness and damage to cataracts, cognitive dysfunction, nerve damage, liver injury and kidney failure.

Even the most avid statin proponents agree that statins do not prevent 60 to 80 percent of cardiac events. This is called “residual risk.” If there were a vaccine, say Vaccine X, that did not prevent 60 to 80 percent of cases of Infection Y, very few would be inclined to take it.

As Jerome Hoffman, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at UCLA wrote recently with regard to these guidelines: “How did we arrive at a place where conflicted parties get to make distorted semi-official pronouncements that have so much impact on public policy?” How indeed?

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Barbara Roberts, MD, FACC is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is the author of The Truth about Statins and How to Keep from Breaking Your Heart: What Every Woman Needs to Know about Cardiovascular Disease. Martha Rosenberg is a health reporter and author of Born with a Junk Food Deficiency.

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Withering of Big Pharma?

By Martha Rosenberg | Dissident Voice | November 7, 2013

It used to be when a drug company settled illegal marketing charges that millions took its drugs under false pretenses, the news would be released on a Friday afternoon when no one would notice. That was then. Now almost all the drug companies have joined the Off label/Kickback club and the public doesn’t seem to notice or care.

On the surface, Johnson & Johnson’s $2.2 billion settlement this week for illegally marketing drugs to the elderly, children and the mentally disabled looks like a victory.  J&J’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, will plead guilty to illegally promoting the antipsychotic Risperdal for “controlling aggression and anxiety in elderly dementia patients and treating behavioral disturbances in children and in individuals with disabilities,” reports Reuters. The promotions included a brazen kickback scheme to Omnicare Inc, a pharmacy supplying nursing homes, exposed by a whistleblower.

At least 15,000 elderly people in nursing homes die a year from drugs like Risperdal said FDA drug reviewer David Graham in Congressional testimony a few years ago. Eli Lilly who makes the similar drug Zyprexa and AstraZeneca who makes Seroquel have also settled charges that they churned the elderly drug market at the price of Grandma and Grandpa’s lives.

But it is not a victory. J&J made $24.2 billion off Risperdal from 2003 to 2010 and shareholders won’t even notice this week’s nano loss. J&J milked Risperdal for all it was worth and the patent had already run out by the time it was charged with illegal schemes. Other drug giants charged with illegal marketing schemes–Abbott for Depakote, Pfizer for Bextra,  Eli Lilly for Zyprexa, AstraZeneca for Seroquel, GlaxoSmithKline for Paxil and Merck for Vioxx–also got their money’s worth before the trivial nuisance of suit. Many, like Pfizer who illegally marketed its seizure drug Neurontin while under probation for illegal Lipitor activities–are brazen and shameless repeat offenders.

Many say the only justice that will get Big Pharma’s attention is frog marching the CEOs off to prison and/or cutting them off from their lucrative public trough of Medicare, Medicaid and military health programs.

Still, Big Pharma’s audacious business plan of asking forgiveness not permission is winding down. Not because Pharma, prescribers, consumers, regulators and health officials have seen the light but because there are no more big drugs to pimp. An estimated 100,000 workers will be losing their jobs at Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Merck reported Yahoo finance last month.

Only two new drug campaigns seem to be brewing and they require a major suspension of reality on the part of doctors and patients. One tries to convince people with low back pain they actually suffer from ankylosing spondylitis an arthritis-like condition that causes chronic inflammation of the spine.  If your spine is stiff when you wake up in the morning you can take an immune suppressor like Humira which puts you at risk of tuberculosis and lethal viral, fungal and bacterial infections while costing you $12,000 to $17,000 a year. Line forms to the left.

The other, even more brazen campaign, tries to convince people with insomnia, tiredness during the day, moodiness and relationship problems that they actually suffer from Non-24-Hour Sleep–Wake Disorder, a disorder that affects mostly blind people. You don’t have to be blind to have the disorder, says the new Pharma message even though there have been fewer than 100 cases of sighted people with non-24 reported in the scientific literature. It sounds like a stretch but so did convincing people with job, money and marriage problems they really had depression or bipolar disorder.

Still it is obvious the bloom has fallen off the Big Pharma rose and it is now paying the piper for the high-flying party with drug settlements like Johnson & Johnson’s this week. But that doesn’t mean shady marketing, hidden risks, kickbacks and outrageous prices are gone from the medical field. They have just moved to the Medical Device industry.

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Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

STATIN NATION

View another excerpt from the documentary film Statin Nation.

For more information, please visit www.statinnation.net

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Video | , , , , , | Comments Off on STATIN NATION

Pfizer Pays $60 Million for Bribing Foreign Doctors

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | August 10, 2012

Foreign subsidiaries of Pfizer spent years bribing foreign doctors and healthcare officials to expand sales of the company’s pharmaceuticals, according to a $60 million settlement reached with the U.S. government.

The deal, brokered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice, resolves charges of illegal activities that took place in about a dozen countries, including China, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

“Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers,” Kara Brockmeyer, an SEC official, said in a news release. “These charges illustrate the pitfalls that exist for companies that fail to appropriately monitor potential risks in their global operations.”

In China, a subsidiary awarded doctors with points for every Pfizer prescription they wrote, allowing them to redeem the points for medical books, cell phones, and other gifts. In some cases, Pfizer’s China operation bribed physicians with free trips abroad.

Pfizer officials in the U.S. reportedly learned of the bribes in 2004 and began in internal investigation that kept federal regulators in the loop on what they discovered. The company insisted its executives knew nothing about the schemes before then.

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pfizer Pays $60 Million for Bribing Foreign Doctors

As “Blockbuster Drug” Bubble Bursts, Big Pharma Takes Jobs Overseas

By Martha Rosenberg | Dissident Voice | March 12th, 2012

It is no consolation to the roughly one out of 600 families who lost their homes in the U.S. but Wall Street made a lot of money slicing and dicing mortgages it knew would implode, while hiding risks. Financial giants, like AIG, are still buzzing along and neither penalties or new laws will prevent a future crash, say financial analysts, because the risky business models have not really changed.

A similar Big Pharma bubble, leavened with risky blockbuster drugs that also blew up, is now bursting. Like Wall Street’s bundled high risk loans, the “tide” created by Big Pharma’s high risk drugs raised many ships during the 2000s from advertising, public relations and medical communication agencies to TV and radio stations, medical journals and doctor/pitchmen who shoveled in its marketing budgets. But now the joy ride is over and Pharma is shedding jobs and settling billions in claims without changing its risky business model, like Wall Street.

In Europe, governments are no longer willing to pay the high prices for drugs that they once did say published reports and some countries are drafting laws making drug makers “prove their drugs are effective or risk having them dropped from the coverage list, or covered at a lower rate.” Imagine!

Germany has already saved 1.9 billion euros in 2011 by refusing to pay higher prices for drugs unless they are clearly superior to existing medicines, and Pharma worries that other countries will also get tough and want scientific proof for drug effectiveness instead of marketing and spin. In the U.S. and elsewhere, a drug only needs to be superior to no drug (placebo) to be approved by regulators — yet “new” is conveyed as “better than any drug to date” in advertising.  Some clinicians say Haldol, an inexpensive antipsychotic, and lithium, a similar affordable bipolar drug are better than blockbuster antipyschotics and bipolar drugs that created Pharma’s 2000 bubble.

Before the Vioxx scandal and major settlements over blockbuster drugs like Zyprexa, Bextra, Celebrex, Geodon and Seroquel, being a Pharma rep was probably the next best thing to working on Wall Street. Direct-to-consumer advertising did your pre-sell for you, and all you had to do was show up with your snappy Vytorin tote bag and samples case. Some Pharma reps had their own reception room with ice water, swivel chairs, and laptop ports at medical offices, and most waltzed in to see the doctor right in front of waiting and sick patients. (It didn’t hurt that reps were usually “hotties,” both men or women).

But, by 2011, the bloom had fallen off Pharma reps’ roses. The number of prescribers willing to see most reps fell almost 20 percent, the number refusing to see all reps increased by half, and eight million sales calls were “nearly impossible to complete,” reported ZS Associates. Blockbuster drugs that were found to be unsafe after their big sales push or even withdrawn altogether, did not help the reps’ credibility with doctors. After the aggressively marketed hormone therapy was linked to high incidences of cancer, stroke and heart attack, Wyeth (now Pfizer) announced it was eliminating 1,200 jobs and closing its Rouses Point, New York plant where Prempro products were manufactured.

As government and private insurers increasingly say, “You want us to cover what?” about expensive, dangerous drugs that are not even proven effective, Pharma bubble jobs are evaporating. Almost 20,000 jobs have vanished at AstraZeneca, Novartis and Pfizer in the last 12 months alone. (AstraZeneca scrapped 21,600 more since 2007). Meanwhile, Pharma is outsourcing more of its operations to poor countries.

Workers and people willing to be trial subjects are both a bargain in poor countries where many can’t understand drug risks or refuse them if they did (and most can’t afford the very drugs they help sell). In January the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals accused drug maker GlaxoSmithKline of misleading participants and pressuring poor families into joining a trial for the Synflorix vaccine, which the company says protects against bacterial pneumonia and meningitis, reported CNN. In 2010, 10 deaths occurred during Pfizer and AstraZeneca drug trials at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre which was ironically built for survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, reports MSNBC. 3,878 workers perished in Bhopal when chemicals leaked at a Union Carbide pesticide plant.

Outsourcing drug manufacturing to cheap venues also contributes to Pharma’s cascade of “quality control” problems in which drugs are mislabeled, contaminated or otherwise made dangerous. It is speculated that Johnson & Johnson’s CEO William Weldon “was pushed to retire because of all of the quality issues at McNeil as well as with the company’s hip implant products, which have resulted in a raft of litigation,” reports FiercePharma.

Like the Wall Street bubble, the Pharma bubble was built on products that industry, but not the public, knew were risky, sold for quick profits. Now regulators are examining some of these “assets” more closely and with disturbing findings. The FDA now warns that bestselling statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor, even approved for children, are linked to memory loss and diabetes associated with. The equally well selling proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec for acid reflux disease (GERD) are now believed to increase the risk of bone fractures by 30 percent.

In March, the FDA even rejected a Merck drug that combines the active drug in Lipitor with the active drug in Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that Forbes calls Son of Vytorin. Vytorin (the father) was advertised to treat both food and family “sources of cholesterol” until results from a study that Merck and Schering-Plough appeared to withhold from regulators showed the drug had no effect on the buildup of plaque in the arteries (believed to correlate with heart attack and stroke). There was such a gap between marketing and science, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the General Accounting Office to investigate why the FDA was approving “drugs that appear to have little to no effect in protecting lives and increasing health.”

Yet even as clouds develop over Pharma’s top-selling drugs, some say the FDA is too hard on new drugs, not too easy. “The FDA is impeding useful innovations in the U.S.,” says former FDA deputy commissioner Scott Gottlieb in the a Wall Street Journal oped and lagging behind other countries. Former FDA commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach, also writing in the WSJ, agrees. The FDA should improve U.S. drug competitiveness by allowing drugs “to be approved based on safety, with efficacy to be proven in later trials,” while the public is already taking the drugs. Isn’t that what’s happening now?

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Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published in April 2012 by Amherst, New York-based Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net.

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Comments Off on As “Blockbuster Drug” Bubble Bursts, Big Pharma Takes Jobs Overseas