Many of the shady practices of our healthcare system are getting lit up as we continue to question exponentially increasing drug prices, the legalized creation of millions of opioid addicts, exorbitantly paid health insurance and pharmaceutical executives, and cancer doctors that benefit from expensive drug treatments that may or may not work. This is what happens when we let free-reign capitalism takes over our health care. Greed rules, patients pay, suffer, and die.
Once upon a time, I thought Mylan was a pretty good generic company. They produced a good product and had fair pricing. Then they got greedy. Heather Bresch has been CEO of Mylan since 2012 and with the help of her family pushed profits and her salary to the point where we started to notice. The $608 price tag for Epi-Pen has garnered headlines and congressional hearings. Plenty came to light in these hearings, including that Heather thought her $18.9 million salary was fairly normal for her industry. Last year, Mylan incorporated in the Netherlands, dodging millions in US taxes.
It turns out that Heather’s dad is a US Senator (since 2010) who was instrumental in landing Heather a job at Mylan. Daddy Joe Manchin is known as a “bipartisan” senator by many and as a “DINO” (Democrat In Name Only) in other circles, because of his breaks with Democratic leadership in voting to defund Planned Parenthood, support of coal, and not endorsing Obama in the 2012 election. To be fair, Sen. Manchin did co-sponsor a balanced budget amendment, introduced the Silver Alert Act, and helped put hydrocodone into schedule II.
Mom got into this act also. In 2013 Gayle Manchin became president of the National Association of State Boards of Education. This followed her appointment to the West Virginia Board of Education by her husband, who was at the time, governor of West Virginia. Momma Gayle thought that Epi-Pens were the coolest thing around and that every school in the nation should have several on hand. She was quite successful in her campaign and Epi-Pen popularity skyrocketed right along with its price.
We call all that shenanigans. Congress calls for a possible anti-trust investigation. A few politicians even dared to mention that we end the ban on Medicare being able to negotiate drug prices! Why the Hell not??!!?? We are being exploited by these greedy corporate weasels and their tools in Congress! There are over 10,000 congressional lobbyists, 100 Senators and 435 Representatives. That’s almost 20 lobbysits for each of our elected “representatives” and I use that term loosely. Look here for the top 20 BIG spenders! OpenSecrets.Org has some good info, including looking at the new phenomenon of “almost a lobbyist, a la John Boehner. As I said, tools, bought and paid for! Be very careful who you re-elect!
We discussed health insurance CEO salaries last year in this very blog. What about pharmaceutical manufacturers? Well, Johnson & Johnson’s William Weldon, took in $29.8 million, and Pfizer’s Ian Read, received $25.6 million. Abbott was right up there in the $25 million range and we know that even a generic company like Mylan paid its CEO close to $20 milllion. Is that really necessary? Even more unnecessary is that over the last ten years Big Pharma has plundered over $700 Billion in profits from the sick and the dying.
Speaking of the sick and dying…
A fairly meticulous study based on an analysis of the results of all the randomized, controlled clinical trials (RCTs) performed in Australia and the US, reported a statistically significant increase in 5-year survival due to the use of chemotherapy in adult malignancies. Survival data were drawn from the Australian cancer registries and the US National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry spanning the period January 1990 until January 2004. The authors deliberately over-estimated the benefit of chemotherapy if the data was uncertain. Even with that fudge factor, they concluded that chemotherapy contributes just over 2 percent to improved survival in cancer patients.
Currently, doctors are paid by a simple formula: the average sales price of the drug, plus 6 percent. Pretty generous for a drug that might coast ten grand , right? But what if the drug is sold to the doctor for $5,000, and is paid by Medicare at the full $10,000. In that case, which is apparently a likely example, the doctor not only gets the 6% ($600), the doctor also pockets the extra five thosand dollars paid by Medicare, i.e. YOU and I! Changes in this scenario are being offered by the Obama administration but are being vehemently opposed by BIG Pharma, physicians groups, and “fake” patient organizations which are funded by BIG Pharma.
And you wonder why chemo is so readily offered. Check this out on snopes.com.
I’ve discussed the opioid problem before and some of the weird ways that we pay for these drugs. This PDF from the American Society of Addiction Medicine has most of the latest numbers. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Here is a great article from the American Journal of Public Health that describes, in depth, the depths of Purdue’s marketing of Oxycontin, including the free giveaways like the music CD, “Get in the Swing With OxyContin” and cute little stuffed animals and nifty fishing hats: If you don’t think highly educated doctors can be influenced by these trinkets, the free dinners, and the island “educational” get-a-ways, you should come and spend some time in my pharmacy.
Maybe the $3 billion offered by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will help to change things also. Interestingly they said, “The first disease to be wiped off the face of the earth must be ignorance. The health care industry has impeded progress because it has failed miserably in the effective use of available data. It has been the poster boy of ignorance.” Yes, the health industry has failed miserably, in large part intentionally.