I am sick and tired of hearing from Big Pharma about the latest miracle pill to help you. Now, we even have a drug to help your depression pill work better. Shouldn’t that have been a clue? Your depression pill is NOT WORKING!! Rarely do I turn on the tv since all I see are Big Pharma commercials for medication. What a racket!
The time has come America. It is time to ban drug advertising from airing on television, radio, and websites. We did it in 1970 when tobacco was banned for airing on national television and radio. We can do it again with this harmful entity.
Drugs are big business
If you watch any amount of television, you know pharmaceutical companies pay big dollars to own the commercial time on our entertainment airwaves. In fact (this will blow your mind), the United States leads the world in marketing dollars for drugs. In 2020, the drug companies spent 4.58 billion dollars on national tv advertising in the United States (Majidi, 2023). This represents 75% of the total ad budget by the medical drug industry.
Based on facts, Big Pharma's direct marketing to us the consumer works. The revenue of the worldwide pharmaceutical market in 2022 hit 1.48 trillion dollars with North Americans shelling out nearly half the share of that money at 49.1%. American's love for pills tops second place China by 39% (Mikulic, 2023).
Big Pharma means big profits
This marketing equates to a commercial takeover of our healthcare system including mental health. The tentacles of this moneymaking takeover are deep, leading to a medical system full of drug dealers not doctors who are supposed to be committed to ‘do no harm’. This is disgusting. It is damaging.
There is a precedent of shutting down harmful industries. In April of 1970, President Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning advertising of cigarettes on national television and radio. The ban took effect on January 2, 1971. Public health advocates created pressure on Big Tobacco and turned the tide of public opinion against cigarette companies selling products that harm and kill citizens. The tobacco companies yielded.
We are in an even worse health care crisis now. Nearly everyone believes a pill(s) exists to solve their problem(s). Nearly everyone is on one or more medications. This is exactly what Big Pharma wants, a drug-dependent nation.
The stats reveal a scary truth
In 1960, Americans spent 2.7 billion on prescription drugs. By 1990, dollars used jumped to 40.3 billion into Big Pharma pockets. The year 2000 saw a spike to 122 billion which nearly doubled by 2005. The steady climb continued with nearly six hundred billion dollars spent on prescription medication in recent years and nearly 2.3 trillion dollars overall each year on health care (Mikulic, 2023). Good lord, why?
Simultaneously as Americans keep throwing money on consuming drugs, our citizens continue to get sicker and sicker, and die younger (Abramson, 2023). The average life expectancy of Americans in 1980 was nearly equal of other wealthy countries, but in a few short decades, the life span of the typical American has fallen behind other countries. The average age before death of an American was going up but, in 2014, a pivotal year for some reason, we lost ground.
Other wealthy countries have better health outcomes than Americans. It begs the question, is it perhaps a correlation to prescription drug use? Americans are more obese than any other country. We incur more infant and maternal mortality, colon cancer, lymphocytic leukemia, and myocardial infarction. Our stats in every mental health diagnosis are worse and have not improved since statistics have been kept. Suicide again is on the rise after declining for two years. Again, my question as a mental health provider, why? What we are doing is NOT working.
Doctors and universities going along with this dysfunction
Coincidentally or not, the commercial takeover of medical knowledge, research, and ‘health care’ recommendations precede this commercial takeover of the marketing of our health care system. By the 1980's, grants declined from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Colleges and universities thus turned to the private sector for sources of funding a.k.a. Big Pharma.
In 1980, The Bayh-Dole-Act passed by congress allowed universities and other non-profit organizations to commercialize discoveries made by their scientists while conducting federally funded research by retaining any profits—including profits from patents on pharmaceuticals. The result – educational institutes, professors, and medical personnel launched a seat at the table in the marketplace.
In 1981, Derek Bok, the president of Harvard University, issued a warning in Harvard Magazine saying the university’s reliance on the pharmaceutical industry funding for research causes ‘an uneasy sense that programs to exploit technological development are likely to confuse the university’s central commitment to the pursuit of knowledge’ (Abramson, 2023).
No longer do universities control health care research. That title now goes to big drug companies. While the FDA requires proof of safety prior to public release, most of the drug testing is done by the pharmaceutical companies with no objective testing available to scientifically determine anything (Citizens Commission on Human Rights, 2023). Big Pharma owns the studies. Fifty percent of all drug research papers are ghost written with a paid psychiatrist’s name on the research. These M.D.'s are paid 5-digit figures to allow their name to be assigned as the author.
This change also overlaps with a general turning away from the pursuit of knowledge, critical thinking, and the free exchange of ideas in the pursuit of truth in higher education. Our campuses exist largely as sole proprietors of political liberal activism. (Read the Breakdown of Higher Education by John Ellis). Social and scientific expertise now rest in the hands of radical activists demanding sanctions on free speech while simultaneously uniting with commercial entities striving for the highest economic value.
Financial conflict of interest
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) operates as a checklist for mental health disorders which typically ‘necessitate’ pharmacological treatments. The APA requires members to disclose their drug ties to pharmaceutical companies, a definite step toward transparency. Nonetheless, there is a clear and present danger of drug companies’ influence on the industry.
In 2006, of the 170 DSM-IV panel members, 56% of them had one or more financial associations with the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the DSM panel members on ‘mood disorders’ and ‘schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’ had financial connections to drug companies (Lisa Cosgrove, 2006). The most recent DSM publication finds 69% of the panel members reporting financial associations to Big Pharma. Without a doubt, this presents a conflict of interest.
The incest of marketing sickness and madness
Follow the money wheel here. We now have drug companies conducting most of the ‘health care’ research. The DSM panel members largely have financial ties to these pharmaceutical companies. These drug firms act as ghost writers paying psychiatrists to use their name as an ‘author’ on the research for submitted journal articles. Then, these same drug firms, in turn, purchase reprints of these medical journal articles which drug reps hand out to doctors. The goal – influence the doctors to prescribe their drugs citing these journal articles for credibility of effectiveness. Do you see the incestuous money wheel?
The Lancet, one the world’s most prestigious journals, made 41% of its income from selling reprints (Abramson, 2023). This means the publication is financially dependent on Big Pharma for purchasing these articles to provide doctors. These medical publications do NOT require the drug companies to submit their extensive internal clinical study and data while redacting any proprietary information. There is no analytical peer review with full knowledge of the clinical study data. These drug companies thus have a cartel on the research, the journals, and the doctors. Many of the drugs sold today are not properly tested and evaluated of their importance and efficacy to the public.
We are a country with a ‘complex’
U.S. citizens have a ‘health care complex’ or a ‘mental health complex’. We tend to love things billed to us as quick fix. We spend money on potions and devices that supposedly make us healthier and billed to create some sort of ‘betterment’ for our lives. Big Pharma understands this ‘complex’ and markets madness and their chemical solutions no matter what the ailments. We are destructively failing and generating more unhealthy people who are sicker and dying younger.
Psychiatrists and medical doctors should stick to what they took a vow to do – treat people who have real medical problems, illnesses, and disorders. They must stop expanding their drug treatment to people who actually can do fine on their own merit with a some guidance and lifestyle changes.
Doctors who FAIL to FIRST ask about nutritional habits, hydration, sleep, fitness & exercise, relationships, and cognitive & spiritual disciplines BEFORE prescribing a medication are drug dealers and NOT doctors. The medical community, our universities, and pharmaceutical companies MUST STOP ACTING LIKE DRUG CARTELS behaving irresponsibly pushing synthetic chemicals, devices, and products which do more harm than good. We need mainstream media outlets and online media vehicles to stop promoting these drugs and mindlessly broadcasting them. We need the government to step in and protect Americans as they did with tobacco companies by banning advertising of pharmaceutical drugs on any platform.
Abramson, J. (2023, February Volume 52, Number 2). America's Broken Health Care: Diagnosis and Prescription . Imprimis, pp. 1-7.
Citizens Commission on Human Rights. (2023, May 10). Quick Facts about Psychiatry. Retrieved from www.cchr.org: https://www.cchr.org/quick-facts/introduction.html
Glass, A. (2018, April 4). Congress Bans Cigarette Ads April 1, 1970. Retrieved from Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/01/congress-bans-airing-cigarette-ads-april-1-1970-489882
Lisa Cosgrove, S. K. (2006). Financial Ties between DSM-IV panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. Psychother Psychosom, 154-160.
Majidi, M. (2023, May 11). Pharmaceutical industry TV ad spend in the U.S. 2016-2020. Retrieved from www.statistia.com: https://www.statista.com/statistics/953104/pharma-industry-tv-ad-spend-us/
Mikulic, M. (2023, January 16). Prescription Drug Expenditures since 1960. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/184914/prescription-drug-expenditures-in-the-us-since-1960/
Mikulic, M. (2023, March 24). Statistia. Retrieved from www.statistia.com: https://www.statista.com/statistics/245473/market-share-of-the-leading-10-global-pharmaceutical-markets/
Rights, C. C. (Director). (2012). The Marketing of Madness: Are we all insane? [Motion Picture].
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About Kip Rodgers
Every day, I read the headlines about athletes who struggle and end up making poor choices. Memorable headlines include Junior Seau and Johnny Manziel. Recent headlines include the horrific abuse in USA Gymnastics and the suicide of a D1 quarterback at Washington State.
The banners I read show athletes get arrested, released, benched, sustain career-ending injuries, and get taken advantage of by others. And, on occasion, an athlete makes the drastic choice to take their life leaving behind stunned teammates, family, friends, and fans.
This drives me. It wakes me up every day with purpose. Why? At 15, I was one of those athletes contemplating suicide...