It is no secret that the pharmaceutical industry takes advantage of the American people and our laws in order to make obscene profits. "Big Pharma" spends 19 times more money advertising drugs to the public than researching and developing new drugs, and heavily invests in influencing doctors, and lobbying Congress. The industry has long hosted luncheons and conferences for medical professionals, giving out "samples" and providing countless incentives for doctors to prescribe their products. Companies are even known to influence drug research and selectively publish studies supporting their claims and ignoring studies that do not.
Through forceful use of these tactics and others, the pharmaceutical industry has effectively created a medical system that revolves around drugs; drugs to prevent illness, drugs to treat illness, and drugs to combat the side-effects of other drugs. Americans spend hundreds of billions on prescription drugs every year. A CDC study from 2008 reveals that half of the U.S. population is on at least one prescription medication, and about 30% are on two or more. Thanks to the powerful influence of the pharmaceutical industry, we have become a nation of drug addicts.
But these statistics are nothing new. Many of "Big Pharma's" devious acts have been widely publicized for years, and yet we somehow still allow the health and well-being of our nation to be wrapped around the fingers of an industry apparently concerned only with keeping the nation addicted to pharmaceuticals. This industry has us heavily medicated us with its money and its influence, and now it has slipped us a poisoned pill.
Like many other corporate giants interested only in inflating their profits, "Big Pharma" has capitalized on court rulings favoring corporate rights over human rights. Over the past several decades, the Supreme Court has become more and more liberal in granting speech rights to pharmaceutical companies, making it increasingly more difficult for the public to obtain accurate information about drugs. In addition, in 2010, the now infamous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
reaffirmed corporations' constitutional rights and gave corporations permission to buy speech in political campaigns through the formation of Super PACs. This ruling has made it even easier for large corporations, including pharmaceutical companies, to manipulate elections and laws.
In December 2012, the Federal Appeals Court in NY overturned a conviction of a pharmaceutical sales representative from Orphan Medical for promoting off-label uses of a pharmaceutical drug, Xyrem, to doctors. The drug in question has known serious side effects, such as trouble breathing, seizures, depression, and vomiting, and in extreme cases, coma and death. The active ingredient in the drug is gamma-hydroxybutryate, more commonly known as GHB (the date-rape drug). The drug had not been approved for patients under 16 or for alternative uses, but the representative was caught endorsing the drug as a treatment for fibromyalgia and insomnia, and for telling doctors that it was perfectly safe for patients as young as 14.
When pharmaceutical companies are already fabricating drug research, influencing drug laws, and forcefully promoting potentially dangerous drugs, it is disturbing to imagine the consequences of allowing them to market drugs that have not even received FDA approval. Is the public's right to safety not more important than a company's so-called "right" to free speech?
This is just one disconcerting example of how the American public is being duped by "Big Pharma." Now that corporations are considered "persons" with constitutional rights like the rights to "free speech" and "equal protection under the law," the pharmaceutical industry can only increase its hold on the American public. Our health, and our power to be informed about our health is slipping through our fingers. If we don't fight back against corporate power now, it may soon be too late.
Don't let "Big Pharma" win. Please join Move to Amend in calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate inherent Constitutional rights for artificial entities like corporations. Move to Amend is a grassroots coalition made up of organizations and individuals around the country who are working to fight corporate supremacy and ensure democracy for the American people. Go to MovetoAmend.org
for more information and to sign the petition to get big corporations out of our Constitution and big money out of our politics.
Heather Buckner is a former communications intern with the Move to Amend Coalition. She has been an environmental activist for several years.