Big Pharma is Killing Us

Drug company profits are literally killing people - and now even doctors are speaking out.

Dr. Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, rebuked the pharmaceutical industry for the sharp rise in cancer drug prices over the last decade. The median monthly price for new cancer drugs nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014 – from a monthly cost of 4,716 dollars between 2000 and 2004 to a monthly cost of about 9,900 dollars between 2010 and 2014.

Dr. Saltz explained part of the problem: “cancer-drug prices are not related to the value of the drug. Prices are based on what has come before and what the seller believes the market will bear.”

And that’s a neat feature of our current patent system – drug companies don’t have to worry about what people can afford to pay for a product. Because monopolies set their own prices.

And that’s what a patent is – a state-backed monopoly on a product.

Thomas Jefferson knew that monopolies would be a threat to the people and the people’s government. Jefferson wrote to James Madison on December 20, 1787 expressing concern that the draft of the Constitution did not include a bill of rights “providing clearly […] for freedom of religion, freedom of press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury…”

Jefferson wanted safeguards from monopolies included in our Bill of Rights – but a patent gives a company the state-sponsored monopoly on a product for the term of the patent. And patents aren’t inherently bad. It would be hugely discouraging to inventors and writers if any old troll can steal a novel idea and peddle it without crediting the inventor.

That’s why Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” And that’s what our Founders wanted our patents to do – encourage innovations for the public good by allowing innovators exclusive rights to their inventions or writings for a limited time.

But as corporate power has taken hold of every aspect of our government – copyright and patent law in the US has changed dramatically.

The 1790 Patent Act allowed patents to last for 7 years with a one-time renewal offered in certain cases. Now patents last for 20 years after filing, and drug companies even enjoy special extensions to make up for delays in FDA approval. And that means that drug companies don’t have to worry about competitive pricing or creating demand because the consumer can only choose between treatment - or misery and death.

So when a company develops a drug that treats a life-threatening illness – they can simply set their price: 1000 dollars per pill for Hepatitis C treatment; 10,000 dollars for a month of cancer treatment; 300,000 dollars for the year of treatment.

Can’t pay? Don’t want to pay? Maybe you’d prefer to die. It’s all the same to the companies.

Because the companies that make our medicine don’t do it for public health – they do it for profit.

Corporations like Walt Disney and Bristol Myer Squibb have lobbied to shape patent and copyright law to fill their corporate coffers instead of “promoting the progress of science and the useful arts.” As drug costs continue to climb, we’re creating a two-tiered society: those who can afford to pay to stay alive, and those who can’t.

Public health is an issue of the commons, and it’s time that we reform patent law to discourage monopolistic price-gouging on drugs that treat life-threatening illnesses. And that requires getting corporate money out of our political system so that companies can’t buy politicians who support granting patents indefinitely.


sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 9 years 2 weeks ago

Sounds like the American Gestapo is just getting started. Poor Jennifer! (Today’s guest, can’t remember her last name). According to the Free Thought Project, Officials are screening FOR stupidity and sociopathy. In addition, Alternet, says; “…legally the bank owns the depositor’s funds as soon as they are put in the bank. Our money becomes the bank’s, and we become unsecured creditors holding IOUs or promises to pay. ... But until now the bank has been obligated to pay the money back on demand in the form of cash. Under the FDIC-BOE plan, our IOUs will be converted into “bank equity.” …

Shane-O said today, “It doesn’t make any sense, does it.” It makes perfect sense when you consider that the corporate controlled DOJ is telling officials to ‘do what ever it takes to keep ‘em in line, we got your back’. I personally feel in my gut, though obviously can’t prove it, that new guidelines for police training are being handed down from the DOJ and that they are being taught to kill if they are at all concerned that the person might be dangerous. Subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, the message is that killing and destroying are acceptable because victims deserve it. Get a judge that rules for the victim, “just ignore ‘em, we got your back”.

BTW Thom, Link to Papp’s video from last night re. David Sirota's article; “…A damning new report from the International Business Times explains how Hillary Clinton used her position as Secretary of State to create a pay-to-play atmosphere for world leaders seeking military equipment and defense contractors looking to make a few extra billions.”

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 2 weeks ago

It strikes me that the drug companies are just like school-yard drug dealers - they get you hooked on their drugs, then jack up the price. Where is the DEA when you need them?

stopgap's picture
stopgap 9 years 2 weeks ago

And yet another reason to elect Bernie Sanders President!!!

effie5555 9 years 2 weeks ago

The drug companies are keeping the drug war going. Thankfully, the rest of the world is beginning to take a stand and allow cannabis research. A Spanish researcher injected THC into the cancer cells of mice and discovered apoptosis (suicide) in the cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact. Would you rather have that at the risk of getting high or would you rather have your hair fall out and have your healthy cells destroyed in order to kill the cancer cells? Cancer patients should start a class action law suit against the federal government for preventing this priceless research. If you can't help, then get out of the way.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

If I need to can I go to Spain and get the THC injection?

PFNELKAK 9 years 2 weeks ago

great info. great insight. ex. research.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 2 weeks ago

Your money or your life? Extortion at it's finest. I'm with Chuck, there is no way I would play and encourage this criminal game of extortion here in the USA. I'll go elsewhere and take everything I own with me. I might just do that even if I don't get sick. This country sucks; and, it ain't gettin any better fast enough.

Johnnie Dorman's picture
Johnnie Dorman 9 years 2 weeks ago

Big pharma is the most despicable pack of criminals that America has ever seen.

Stella Jane's picture
Stella Jane 9 years 2 weeks ago

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MEANWHILE women die uncounted....

Stella Jane's picture
Stella Jane 9 years 2 weeks ago

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w1ders's picture
w1ders 9 years 2 weeks ago

Our only chance is to unite with Bernie Sanders. That is if he doesn't have a small aircraft crash. Third world status sounds like an awful way to live.

kayejaye's picture
kayejaye 9 years 2 weeks ago

People are gouged not only on drugs for cancer, but on everyday drugs like insulin and related supplies. A relative was on insulin for years and the price kept going up for it and even the testing supplies. The companies know Medicare will pay it so they are gouging all of us. Likewise another relative has to take an expensive drug weekly for MS. Same drug 20 years ago cost about $300/ week, now it's $3,000. She has a good insurance plan, it pays everything, so drug companies say why not charge more. The sky's the limit.

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 9 years 2 weeks ago
KaraGirl's picture
KaraGirl 9 years 2 weeks ago

So let me get this straight. Prices jumped from 4k a month to 9k a month in thoms example. My question is Who the f*** could pay the 4k to begin with. Why do we live in a system where drug companies produce these treatments, and Im not just talking about cancer, but everything else that for one; cause more issues then they cure, and two are for the most part expensive as hell. Why not make drugs that are affordable for everyone, instead of making something that costs 300,000, and only !% of people can Take advantage of it why not make something that costs 30 and 300,000,000 can Take advantage of it if need be. Why do we live in a society where even the people Who design the drugs to keep us safe and healthy put profit over our own well being. WHAT THE F***

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

KaraGirl -- Medicare pays for those drugs. Since the repugs are the puppets of the billionaires of pharma, guess how the price became so high.

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