Another record fine has been levied against a Big Pharma company. This time it’s GlaxoSmithKline, the fourth largest drug company in the world with revenues for 2011 of over $42.5 billion. GSK got hit with a $3 billion fine for basically lying and cheating about their drugs. That’s a hefty wad of cash, an amount of money you would think might make a company mend its ways and follow the righteous path of corporate responsibility, yes? No! To drug companies as well as other huge corporations, human suffering, death, unethical behavior and illegal activities are just part of a business model. Outrageous fines are just the cost of doing business, carefully weighed and analyzed on a risk/benefit table. Who cares if you get fined $3 billion if your drug sales are netting a healthy profit? Over the period covered by the fines, the GSK drugs in question, Avandia, Paxil, and Wellbutrin racked up $28 billion. And as P.T. Barnum once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” The names of those drugs are still appearing in news media.
Riding the Pinto. Lawsuits and fines are part of corporate life. When someone dies from using a drug that was not cleared for use with a specific ailment, a drug company can be held liable if found to have lied about research, withheld data or promoted the drug “off-label.” If the family of the deceased sues and wins, the company pays or settles. But corporations are fond of rolling the dice and weighing the odds. If the risk/benefit analysis gives a certain number, they’ll keep on letting people die. They just have to have a cut-off number.
In the early 1970s, Ford came out with a car called the Pinto. It was a response to the Asian Invasion — the cheap, flimsy cars that Honda and Datsun were pouring into the United States. Ford’s entry made a Honda look like a Hummer.
It seemed that whenever a Pinto was hit from behind, even in a minor accident, the placement and design of the fuel tank could lead to a horrific explosion and fire. Ford knew about the problem but began to watch the numbers. They did some simple math and discovered that it was cheaper to pay off the owners or their survivors than it would have been to recall the Pintos and perform a $13 fix. The same kind of business ethic survives to this day. And it’s obviously practiced by Big Pharma.
FDA and Big Pharma feed at the same trough: your pocketbook. So GSK pays the largest fine in history, $3 billion. Where does the money go? It would be nice to think that the people killed or injured were taken care of and that’s what the general impression is. Most reports are consistent and paint a different picture. Unless there is a specific designation for injured parties (rare) then the breakdown is pretty simple. In this case, some of the money, about $300 million, will go to the states and agencies such as Medicaid that may have been underpaid. A small fraction will go to whistleblowers that helped make the case against GSK and the vast majority of the money goes back to the biggest thief in the lot, the United States General Treasury. Three billion in fines minus $300 million to informants plus a little to local agencies. That leaves a cool $2 billion-plus to bank.
And it’s not just the FDA that is in a money grabbing state of mind. How about the EPA? Where do those fines go? When a feedlot pollutes my water source or fouls a river I want to fish, do I see any of it? No. The EPA allows pollution. In fact, it encourages it. It simply provides a maximum level and if a company exceeds that number the corporate coffers have to pay.
Make no mistake about it, the United States government and the politicians who run it make a fortune off the misfortune of victims of Big Pharma — and that’s you! In addition to being leading contributors to campaign funds and PACs, Big Pharma is the biggest lobbyist in Washington, spending $220 million in 2011.
There is not one drug a person can take and be certain that it is safe. And some drugs have such deadly side-effects that the odds are stacked against the patient. And it’s not just drugs. A recent study was published that demonstrated that radiation therapy for cancer makes the cancer liable to come back 30 times more malignant!
In a time of an eroding economy, one need only look at which industries are still hiring and erecting new multi-billion dollar buildings or pipelines. The disease-care industry of American medicine and the extraction industries of Big Oil lead the way. Believing anything they tell you would be foolish. But then, didn’t Barnum also say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at www.HeartlandHealing.com