Big Pharma Profits with Prescription Pills: The Folly of So-Called Modern Medicine
It was an innocent trip to my local café. I planned to spend my half hour lunch break enjoying a bowl of soup and possibly a turkey sandwich. As I strolled towards the café’s front doors, I passed a man in a shirt and tie, resting his elbow on one of the outdoor tables while speaking into what appeared to be an invisible phone. He was saying things like “yes” and “absolutely” and “excellent” and as I passed him, he struck me as being the epitome of the corporate sleazeball.
I don’t know why the impression he made was so strong. It was a quick stroll, and anyway, I only heard about seven seconds of the conversation he seemed to be having with someone on the other end of a phone I couldn’t see. But in those seven or so seconds, I got the distinct and unmistakable impression that this man was the very definition of walking evil. Like those robots in the Matrix, if you’ve ever seen the Matrix. Someone devoid of human feeling, moving on some kind of pre-programmed automaticity.
Turns out I might have been right. After unsuccessfully looking for an empty seat inside the café, I set up camp outside, two tables down from my new corporate friend.
He was still talking to someone who wasn’t present, and as I peered over at him I noticed a tiny ear-piece in his left ear, probably made for people on the go like this man must be all the time. He had some kind of black leather binder that made me think he was a salesman, and eavesdropping on his conversation, I found out that’s exactly what he was.
Corporate man was talking to what appeared to be his boss, or maybe an associate, about his most recent visit to a potential client, a local doctor. In very matter of fact terms he explained that when prescribing drugs for ADHD, the doctor tended to prescribe 35% Concerta and 35% Adderall to her patients, and that he was trying to convince her to prescribe more of whatever drug he was selling, presumably Ritalin or some other stimulant like it.
Seeing as I had just written an article about Ritalin and how it was not only a dangerous and sometimes deadly drug, but prescribed for a completely made-up disorder, the coincidence seemed a little eerie.
So I continued to eavesdrop, and corporate man said he had given this doctor the links to several studies done that supported the use of this particular drug, in hopes that she would go online, read the studies, and prescribe more of the drug he was getting paid to sell. As good as my soup tasted, I began to feel nauseous.
I couldn’t help thinking of my mother, who took a drug called Prevacid for what used to be called heartburn, and is now considered “Acid Reflux Disease.” After taking Prevacid for a few months, she started having a slew of health problems she’d never experienced before. Her heartburn was gone, but she was getting frequent sinus infections and her joints ached constantly.
Being of reasonable intelligence, she thought that since the stomach acid her body used to break down and digest food was being suppressed, she might not be getting the nutrients she needed from the foods she ate and the vitamins she took, and thus her pain and illness was her body’s indication that it was growing deficient in these nutrients.
She expressed this thought to her doctor, who promptly told my mother that such a thing couldn’t be possible, because studies had been done that showed this to be false. I wondered if these were the same kinds of studies our corporate friend had pointed his doctor client to, studies that aren’t so much concerned with accurate results but profit margins. I wondered just how misinformed the doctors that most people considered authorities might be.
As my new drug salesman friend got up from his seat and the heels of his polished shoes clicked on the sidewalk, I realized that this is how it works in the prescription drug game.
Behaviors and conditions that were once considered eccentricities or natural responses to the everyday stresses of life are now labeled disorders and diseases for which a drug is a necessary part of treatment. Doctors that are supposed to be the informed authorities on health and wellness are educated by biased studies and are really just as deep in the dark as their patients when it comes to the subject. Drug companies literally make billions while sleazy sales reps convince doctors to sell more of their drug and don’t feel the slightest bit of remorse doing it; it’s all part of the job.
The whole process seemed frighteningly illogical. I thought about what would happen if other professions applied the same lack of skill and blatant ineptitude to their job as doctors had come to apply to theirs.
Let’s say your brakes are squealing. You bring it to a mechanic and normally he finds the source of the problem. Maybe your rotors are worn or you need new brake pads. So he replaces your rotors or brake pads, and you’re on your way with a nice set of non-squealing brakes. He doesn’t label it ‘squealing brake disorder’ and encase your wheels in some kind of padding to reduce the noise.
If your roof is leaking, you call a repairman. He finds the source of the leak and replaces whatever damaged section of the house there is. He doesn’t label it “porous roof disorder” and give you a really big bucket to catch all the dripping water.
A trained professional gets to the root of the problem, discovers its source, and takes effective measures to bring it back to normal.
Not so with the case of medical doctors nowadays. Despite their extensive training, the answer to most ailments lies in a pill.
Like the last time I went for my physical and complained of frequent headaches. My doctor was a very sweet lady, obviously very intelligent, and obviously part of the medical machine.
After asking me some questions about whether or not I smelled anything funny or saw any flashing lights before the onset of my headaches, she said I was probably just experiencing tension headaches and wrote me out a prescription for some kind of headache medication. Of course, I didn’t get the prescription filled. I’m not interested in taking a pill to mask a problem that obviously has an undetected cause.
Because who knows? Maybe my head hurt because I practically live at Mcdonald’s, or I drink too much caffeine, or I ingest way too many artificial sweeteners, and hardly get any whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Maybe my head hurt because I was working two jobs in addition to going to school full-time, and often ran from school to work on 4 hours of sleep.
Who knows what caused my headaches? But obviously my doctor didn’t, and she should have asked enough questions and done a thorough enough investigation to find out.
And she might have, if she weren’t reading medical journals, getting visits from pharmaceutical reps, and being one more cog in the medical machinery that says the solution to every problem consists of some kind of prescription pill.
Naturally, most of us believe our doctors; they’re supposed to be the ones in the know. But the next time you go see your primary care physician, try complaining that you can’t sleep at night, and see how long it takes for them to prescribe you some kind of medication for it.
Never mind that you might be drinking caffeine an hour before bed, or might be experienced overwhelming stress you’re unable to cope with, or might be deficient in magnesium, a mineral that’s crucial to getting a good night’s sleep, or any other possible thousands of actual causes. Just see how quickly they prescribe you some pill to give you the artificial sensation that your body can’t naturally produce, because there is something wrong with it that the doctor is supposed to help you fix, and instead helps you to cover up.
It seems like a shoddy substitution for treatment from people who are supposed to be extensively trained in doing just that, but it’s what we accept.
And behind all of this are the pharmaceutical companies, represented without remorse by corporate cowboys like my friend from the café, busy riding off into the sunset with their own slice of the billion dollar profit while we wait in the CVS drive-thru for pills we’re sure we can’t live without.