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THE PAIN OF RISING DRUG COSTS
UUP President William E. Scheuerman
Professor of Political Science, SUNY Oswego
This commentary was recorded in January 2006 on WAMC-Northeast Public Radio.
THE PAIN OF RISING DRUG COSTS
There’s a health care crisis in the United States. Costs are sky-
rocketing. Many Americans have no health care coverage at all
and those fortunate enough to have coverage are struggling to
maintain it. Keep this in mind the next time you go to the doctor and ask
for the “little purple pill” when an over-the-counter antacid would work
just as well.
You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all seen
amount spent on research and development. In
TV ads where an authoritative voice describes a
2004, Pfizer — the world’s largest drug company—
medical problem and advises us to tell our doctor to
spent $120 million on ads for the cholesterol drug
prescribe a specific drug for our condition, imag-
Lipitor. Not a bad investment, as the company
ined or real. The implications of this TV campaign
returned profits of $11.3 billion on sales of $51 bil-
are far-reaching. Let’s begin by looking at what this
lion last year. Needless to say, the costs of the
means to the profession of medicine.
media campaign are passed on to the consumer.
Patients make demands
Number of drugs skyrocket
Once the patient becomes the mouthpiece of the
But this is only the beginning. There are other
drug companies, the professional status and author-
ity of the treating physician is grossly undercut.
Over the last decade, the number of prescriptions
The role of the doctor changes from one who is
has increased by about two-thirds. Almost every-
trained to treat disease to someone who dispenses
thing is now defined as a disease requiring pre-
drugs touted on TV because the consumer —
scription drugs, even though, according to a News
whose only education on the issue probably came
Target report, “About 125,000 people die from drug
from the TV ad — wants that particular drug. The
reactions and mistakes every year, making it the
bottom line: The doctor’s authority based on years
fourth most common cause of death in America.”
of education and professional training is replaced
We know the human cost of these deaths: more than
by patients’ demands as defined and driven by the
twice the total of the Vietnam war annually. But
drug companies’ relentless television commercials.
what are the health care costs of these deaths? What
Last year these gigantic pill pushers spent about
are the costs to society in terms of lost productivity
$60 billion marketing their drugs, about twice the
The Pain of Rising Drug Costs
Profit, not cure
generic, its manufacturer reworked the same com-
pounds, added yellow stripes and produced
In focusing on profits rather than cures, the drug
Nexium, which hit $3.7 billion in sales in 2004.
companies don’t peddle less expensive generic
Nexium also earned a Bitter Pill from the Boston-
based Community Catalyst organization for “The
Community Catalyst gave its “The Cure for the
As health care
commercials and tells his Human Condition Award” to GlaxoSmithKline
physician to prescribe a when it re-defined “shyness” as “social anxiety dis-
order” and offered Paxil as the cure. With the mar-
than the cheaper generic ket for Paxil significantly expanded to everybody
who has ever felt anxious, shy or afraid, its 2004
sales topped $870 million. The FDA has also since
premiums become a
insurance plans, which in reprimanded the drug company because Paxil has
major labor issue.
consumer in the form of What it means to UUP
Health care in the United States is under the gun.
costs are rising almost as fast as the profits of the
Americans are overmedicated, overcharged and
frequently undertreated. As health care costs
increase, employee givebacks on health insurance
Patents protect the drug companies’ monopoly
become a major labor issue. Additionally, more and
on brand-name drugs for years, but they eventually
more people have less and less health coverage or
run out, driving companies to promote new drugs
none at all. Our elected officials keep saying they
when the old ones work just as well and even when
want to do something about containing health care
the new ones are virtually identical to their prede-
costs. Well, they can start by reining in the large
cessor! The “little purple pill” is a case in point.
drug companies and the billions they spend each
When Prilosec, the original “purple pill,” went
Center for Public Integrity, Special report: Second to None, How the pharmaceutical industry gets its
See the Community Catalyst Web site at http://www.communitycatalyst.org
EPIDURAL STEROID INJECTION WHAT DIAGNOSIS IS THIS TREATMENT FOR? 1. Sciatica 2. Radiculopathy 3. Herniated Disc ("Slipped Disc") WHAT IS AN EPIDURAL STEROID INJECTION? Epidural steroid injection is an injection of long lasting steroid (like "cortisone") in the epidural space- that is the area which surrounds the spinal cord and the nerves coming out . WHAT IS THE
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