There are conspiracy theories that really makes one question the collective sanity of the public.
For example, there is a current theory that suggest that lizard-people govern the United States (a stunning 4 percent of the U.S. population actually believe this one).
There’s another conspiracy theory that the U.S government controls people’s thoughts with television programing — an even more stunning 15 percent believe this theory.
One more ridiculous theory, perhaps the craziest yet, is that the country of Finland does not actually exist. This theory evolved on Reddit. According to “Raregans,” Finland is a concocted landmass, imagined by the Japanese and Soviet Union during the Cold War to obtain fishing rights in the Baltic Sea.
However, some conspiracies really do have basis. One could be that Big Pharma, pharmaceutical lobbyists, companies and manufacturer, acts against the interest of the general public for selfish reasons — profit. This is a widely believed conspiracy theory for which there is quite a lot of evidence.
Twenty companies that are part of Big Pharma make the Fortune 500 list – a list that ranks 500 of the largest US corporations by total revenue.
The top 11 companies of the Big Pharma list had profits of approximately $711 billion in the 10 years between 2003 – 2012, with a combined profit of nearly $84 billion in 2012 alone.
This is not an article condemning corporations for making a profit, it is an article exploring how that profit is made and at what cost to human life, joy, and financial security.
American Big Pharma’s profits are excessive as a result of overcharging American consumers and taxpayers. Americans pay significantly more that individuals in other countries for the exact same drugs — 40 percent more than Canadian consumers, 75 percent more the Japanese and almost 300 percent more than the Danes.
Big Pharma claims that it needs to charge high prices to fund research and development departments so that new, life-saving drugs can be developed.
Funny thing is, though, that half of the “new” drugs approved in the United States between 1998 and 2007 were developed with research from universities and biotech firms, not Big Pharma companies. Furthermore, evidence suggests that drug companies spend 19 times more money on marketing than on research and development.
One of the earliest examples of Big Pharma sacrificing human lives for profit was litigated in the late 1990s.
At that time, nearly 25 percent of South Africa’s working age population was living with HIV.
The government needed to act and sought out antiretroviral medication that could improve the quality and extend the lives of HIV positive patients.
Branded medicines, medicines sold by Big Pharma, cost nearly $10,000 for a one-year supply. Generic versions of these same antiretrovirals, drugs with the exact same chemical formulation (though with minor variations in concentration, usually 3-4 percent), cost users just $350 for a one-year supply.
Big Pharma sued, using international trade laws and intellectual property laws, because South Africa was cutting into its potential profits.
Big Pharma eventually withdrew its case, but only after reaching a deal with the South African government for “reasonable” pricing. It’s a guarantee that the reasonable pricing is higher than $350.
More recently, a widely publicized pricing scandal involved a drastic surge in the price of EpiPen, a life-saving antidote to allergic reactions.
Since 2007 when drugmaker Mylan acquired the rights to EpiPen, the price has increased from $94 to $609.
In that same time, there were no significant changes to EpiPen that could explain the increase.
In fact, the CEO of Mylan was unable to provide any reasonable explanation for the 534 percent increase when called to testify before Congress about the issue.
In response to the negative publicity, Mylan did not decrease the price, but offered $100 coupons for the product. It continues to rake in the profits and endanger the lives of nearly 3.6 million Americans facing life-threatening allergies.
One more example of Big Pharma manipulating drug prices to maximize profit and endanger the people they are supposed to be helping is insulin. Insulin is used to treat diabetes, a chronic condition that nearly 30 million Americans battle.
Insulin is a life-saving drug for many who suffer from diabetes. At a certain stage, a person with diabetes cannot live without insulin.
Only three companies make insulin, and in 2016, the US Attorney General received evidence that these three companies, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanfoni, had continuously raised prices over the past decade and had done so in concert — acting cooperatively so that consumers did not have a lower-priced choice.
Between 2010 and 2015, insulin prices rose by an average of 220 percent. Once again, this price increase cannot be explained away by “evergreening,” where slight modifications to drug composition supposedly makes the drugs more effective and prevents generic versions from entering the market. Evergreening is a common explanation the industry uses to justify price increases.
Two things are certain – People’s health matters and Big Pharma is highly influential, both for the good and the bad, in today’s health care industry. There needs to a marriage between the interests of the people needing healthcare and the people running healthcare. Profit cannot not be the driver in the industry and Congress needs to ensure that individuals are protected from the negatives of Big Pharma.