Tag Archives: pharmaceuticals

Drugs, Drugs, and More Drugs

The pharmaceutical industry in the United States has hoodwinked the public into believing its snake oils are worth the money you pay.  The government, “health care industry,” and insurance companies are happy to comply, and maybe some of them even believe their hype.

This does not stop them from jacking up the prices of necessary medications, like insulin for diabetes.  According to the New York Times, Martin Shkreli set a new record for Wall Street greed when he acquired the rights to Daraprim, a life-saving anti-parasitic drug, in 2015 and hiked the price from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight.

The NYT says the Trump administration “went ballistic” when Pfizer increased prices a few weeks ago.  This has deterred Pfizer, along with Merck, Roche, and Novartis from raising prices, for now.

But not to worry, if you have stock in a pharmaceutical company, because the FDA and its sympathizers are on your side.  Only worry if your insurance company doesn’t cover the cost of your medications.

You might profit from buying stock in the companies whose drugs the FDA, the “health care industry,” and the insurance companies are pushing, such as the over-the-counter naloxone that is one of four medications promoted for “opioid use disorder.”  In terms of reputation, this “opioid crisis” has spread far and wide, to the highest government offices, academia, psychiatry, newspapers, magazines, television, the internet, the courts, and dinner-table talk.  Its funding has been greatly enhanced by the promoters of public disinformation, yet relevant facts are few.  All the stories have the monotonous flavor of canned worms, opened, sampled and regurgitated for yet another meal.

We are told about opioid-related deaths, the evil drug company that promoted its opioid drug as non-addictive, the lazy or greedy doctors who over-prescribe narcotics, and the glories of “medication-assisted treatment,” or MAT.  Somehow, heroin comes up in all these stories, yet most people should know heroin is nowhere legal in the United States, not even by prescription.  We are rarely told that this magical MAT consists of four drugs, two of which are opiates themselves, or that the federal government has added special training and licensing requirements for administration of its approved protocol. We are not told that “treatment” does not mean “cure.”  No, “cure” would imply eventual freedom from all drugs, a notion that doesn’t serve Wall Street profits.

So let me give you one example of how this scam works.  I hesitate to call it a “conspiracy” (wink, wink), because of the paranoia such a word implies.  I’d rather call it a “consortium” of interrelated interests, all of which stand to profit by exaggerating the problem and presenting expensive but ineffective solutions.

We are told opioid-related deaths have skyrocketed this century, and Oxycontin (oxycodone) is the precipitating culprit.  OxyContin is produced by Purdue Pharma, which indeed does have a shady background.  In 1952, three brothers—Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler–all psychiatrists from Queens, New York, purchased Purdue Frederick Company.  Arthur was reputed to be brilliant in psychiatric research and pharmaceutical advertising.  Working for Roche, he found enough uses for Valium (diazepam) to make it the first drug to hit the $100 million mark in revenue.  He also “positioned” Librium (chlordiazepoxide) for Roche.  Valium and Librium are members of the “benzodiazepine” class of drugs, a class that includes Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and others.  Alternatively, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid from thebaine, an opioid alkaloid in the Persian poppy.  It was developed in 1919 in Germany.

In December, 1995 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Purdue’s OxyContin (oxycodone), to treat pain.  It hit the market in 1996. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of drugs was approved by the FDA in 1997.  Purdue marketed the drug to doctors and the public as a non-addictive treatment for pain.  It reached $45 million in sales the first year, and $1.1 billion by 2000.  By 2000, it was becoming evident that OxyContin was, indeed, addictive, but the FDA still approved a larger, 160-milligram pill for those with high tolerance.

In 2007, in US vs. Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., Purdue pleaded guilty to intent to mislead doctors and patients about the addictive properties of OxyContin.  It paid $600 million in fines, among the largest settlements for pharmaceutical companies in US history.

By 2010, revenues had hit $3.1 billion, or 30 percent of the painkiller market.  Purdue remains a privately held company, in the hands of the Sackler descendants.  It is being served with multiple lawsuits from different states for its role in contributing to the “opioid epidemic.”  According to The Week, Kentucky is one of the worst-hit states.  It has filed twelve claims against Purdue, for false advertising, Medicaid fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages, among others.  The Week also says there was a four-fold increase in prescription painkillers supplied to pharmacies and MD offices between 1999 and 2010.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported in 2017 that the US constitutes 80 percent of opioid pill production but has only five percent of the world’s population.  It claims the pharmaceutical companies made false claims of an “epidemic of pain,” in the 1990s, and the federal agencies went along.  Pharmaceutical lobbyists got Congress to loosen restraints, and doctors were often reprimanded for not supplying enough.  “Regulators became facilitators,” as the FDA approved one opioid pill after another.

How does this relate to heroin, a known street drug, one might ask.  It’s a good question, for which there are no easy answers.  The idea that prescription painkiller pills are “gateway” drugs to heroin use has been mentioned.  One source notes that heroin is less expensive on the street than OxyContin, which can cost $1/milligram, or $80 for an 80-mg pill.  A more significant problem with heroin, we are told, is that it is increasingly laced with fentanyl, another opiate that is up to 5000 times stronger than heroin.  Synthetic fentanyl is being smuggled in from China.  Heroin is coming from Mexico, some say.  Fact is, there are few facts available in this gigantic obfuscation of facts that characterizes sensationalism.

So we don’t exactly know how prescription pain-killers are related to heroin/fentanyl deaths.

Death from opioids usually comes from respiratory depression.  In other words, people who overdose pass out and stop breathing.  Many other drugs cause respiratory depression, too, and a mixture can have cumulative effects.  It is common for people with chronic pain to take both a narcotic (opioid) and a muscle relaxant/sedative of the benzodiazepine class mentioned above.  The benzodiazepines also cause respiratory depression, as does alcohol.   Too, it’s not clear how many of these opioid-related deaths are complicated by other substances.  One psychiatric journal mentioned that a third of opioid deaths were complicated by benzodiazepines.  It’s probably safe to say that hard-core street addicts could be taking many drugs at any given time.

But our “medication-assisted treatment” bypasses all these inconvenient details.  It does include a drug, naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioids and can save lives in a primary opioid emergency.  It has been around over 45 years and is well known in emergency rooms for its life-saving effects.  Since this crisis began, police and ambulance drivers have had to use it on numerous occasions.  Now, the US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, has encouraged over-the-counter preparations of naloxone for those with opioid use disorder and their loved ones.  FDA head Scott Gottlieb is also advocating expanded access to treatment, Medicaid funding, and other systemic changes to pay for the problem.

Manufacturers of OTC naloxone have jumped to increase prices accordingly.  Narcan intranasal (Adapt Pharma Inc.) retails for $135/dose, more than double its price a few years ago.  Kaleo’s Evzio auto-injector now retails for $4,500, more than 6.5 times its $690 average price in 2014.

What’s not clear about this scenario is how a passed-out opioid over-doser who has stopped breathing will be able to administer the naloxone.  Irreversible brain damage occurs mere minutes after a person stops breathing.  The life-saving medication requires someone alert, quick to recognize the problem, and to administer the antidote.

With all the calls for funding, research, and treatment, no one is admitting that substance use treatment is notoriously ineffective.  FDA head Gottlieb and others are begrudgingly accepting the idea that cure may not be practical, and long-term maintenance must be considered.  So the magic bullet, the aforementioned MAT, or “medication-assisted treatment,” is not a cure.  It is designed to convert illegal opioid use to legal opioid use for perhaps a lifetime.  Of course this will require funding for treatment, for the treating facilities, support staff, the researchers, and for the prescriptions.

Who benefits from this crisis?  Well, the National Institute of Health has earmarked $1.1 billion to develop “scientific solutions,” backed by a $1.3 trillion omnibus package passed by Congress, according to Psychiatric News.

US President Donald Trump has declared the “opioid crisis” a public health emergency.  We have the White House Opioid Commission looking for ways to fund and treat the problem, including such issues as insurance coverage.  It recommends funding for no less than eight professional organizations.

The four approved medications in MAT are naloxone, mentioned above, naltrexone, and opioids buprenorphine and methadone, in case you want to buy stock in the companies.  Insurance company stock will most likely benefit, too.

The common denominator in this “emergency” is the use of more drugs to treat the drug problem in the drug-crazed culture we have created.

Here’s How 060616: Ode to Demeter

corn0607

Corn, Cochran, GA.  Supposedly, 80% of corn sold in the United States is already genetically modified. It’s too late to label GM products.

Ode to Demeter, Goddess of the Corn
daughter of Cronos and Rhea

Microsoft is on the KO! Economic Hit List this week because I just spent $70 to get Windows 7 reinstalled.  This is because Microsoft is busy providing “free” downloads of Windows 10, which my computer doesn’t have enough memory to handle.  Yes I missed the chance to refuse Windows 10, supposedly, but I was in the middle of composing an e-mail on line when Microsoft butted in and commandeered my computer for at least the next 24 hours.  After 48 hours, I called my computer tech for help.  She said this is happening to everyone.  She’s making a lot of money at her hourly rate to uninstall this free gift from one of the richest corporations in the world.  Beware Windows 10 offers unless you know what you’re doing.  And sell Microsoft stock, if you have it.

If that isn’t a good enough reason to sell Microsoft stock, here’s another:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is big into finding a patented vaccine for malaria.  Oprah Winfrey is also involved, probably not realizing what she’s lending her name to.  My guess is Oprah is being used to front for the perpetrators.

Who are the perpetrators?  Any number of ever-shifting pharmaceutical shells.  Trying to keep up with Pharma’s rolling dice is like trying to walk over a room full of billiard balls.

This is how it works.  Bayer has recently offered to buy Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, but Bayer apparently would have to borrow money to supply the cash. Bayer is also a prime mover into genetically modified (mutated) food products, such as soy, corn, and potatoes, among others, products which are fed to livestock as well as humans. Meanwhile, Pfizer is offering to move its international headquarters to Ireland, but the US doesn’t want to let go of Pfizer’s patents.

But Novartis is the most noteworthy player for the anti-malarial/Gates swindle.

There’s an international unsettled question of patents, if you’re an international corporation.  Is any government really obligated to honor another government’s patents?  Since I don’t believe in them (patents or governments), I might choose to live in a country where everything is generic, like artemisia in Africa.  If a country like Cuba, for instance, were to refuse to honor Monsanto’s patents, would that save Cuban agriculture from GMO products?  Same with Dow/Dupont and their plastics and insecticides?  I want to get to Cuba before the litter takes over.

Back to mosquitoes and malaria.  Artemisia is a naturally occurring anti-malarial plant that grows in complement with the malarial parasite in Africa, among other places.  It has been used for generations as a natural antidote to malaria.

Enter Novartis, the drug company, and the Gates foundation, and other advocates of patented, processed, and artificially enhanced traditional remedies.  They buy up or wrest control of huge tracts of formerly food-producing or forested land.  They clear it and plant mono-culture fields of artemisia.  Mono-agriculture is one of the most economically unsound, disease-promoting, and earth-depleting agricultural practices we have going, but you won’t hear this from Big Ag.

Anyway, this dinasour-like take-over of previously sustainable agriculture (for the local population, anyway) is no longer available to natives.  Instead, they are rewarded with local wells gone dry or contaminated by industrial pollutants (as both Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola have done in India*).  Instead of providing locally for extended family and villages, the corporations “create jobs” for those who “live below the poverty line,” partly because they grew or found their own food, and didn’t need so much money.  Now, they are on the tax rolls working for the corporations, at bare sustenance wages, so that shareholders on Wall Street can reap enormous unearned profits.

So this is how the US raises the poverty level worldwide, including at home.

But that’s not all.  It gets worse from here.

The next step is to produce a prototype vaccine using artemisia as a base, but the FDA approval process takes years in the US.  Besides, we’ve eliminated malaria and yellow fever (for the moment) by installing good public works and sanitation programs, like draining mosquito habitats (but not poisoning).  In the 18th and 19th centuries, annual outbreaks of seasonal malaria and yellow fever drove people like Alexander Hamilton and plantation owners from cities to farms in summer to escape the recurrences of deadly disease.

Thank Walter Reed and William Gorgas (at the turn of the 20th century) for the scientific discovery of mosquitoes as vectors and of habitat drainage for public health.  Reed was head of the original Army Corps of Engineers Panama Canal digging crew but died in 1901.  His assistant, William Gorgas, assumed the task of draining low swampy land to curb the mosquitoes.

They didn’t have industrial pollution, highway runoff, carcinogens, plastic, litter, junk mail, sewage waste, agricultural chemicals, household poisons, and radioactive isotopes to deal with then, and few patented drugs, so they had to rely on brains and brawn working together to survive.

In any case, since we’ve cured these diseases in the US by sane, low-cost, public health measures, the asset plunders and money churners now want to profit from the diseases we’ve eliminated by doing the opposite of what worked.

This is why GoverCorp is imploding.  It is suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, and out of emotional control.  In Savannah and nationwide, it is breeding mosquitoes by the bucketful with its mono-agriculture, poisoning the entire region with with exhaust fumes, machine noise, pesticides, herbicides, rodentocides, chemical fertilizers, industrial waste, depleting and contaminating groundwater, and poisoning or drying up local wells as fast as it can get away with it.  It is replacing tried and true farming techniques, cultural wisdom, heritage, tradition, and land with cheap American hype and the devastation it causes.

And you, Josie Taxpayer are paying for this through your taxes, purchases, and Wall Street investments. I say “Josie Taxpayer” instead the more urbane “Joe,” because women have more chromosomes than men.  This gives them more genes to work with, and a sixth sense, Common Sense.

So, if you want value for your US tax money, start selling international corporation stock.  Your dividends come on the backs of the world’s most disenfranchised people and the eco-rapists at home.  Can you really rest easy with your retirement portfolio, knowing this, when there are so many more rewarding investments closer to home?

The story about patented malaria vaccines continues, because we still have FDA trials to go through, but we need a “cohort” of test subjects.  Unfortunately, the US has eradicated malaria here, as previously noted, so we need to go to a malaria-infested third world country to find our study “cohort.”  We accomplish miracles with very little money by “gifting” that country’s leadership—as we did in Ecuador a few years back—with vaccines and supplies for vaccinating everyone in the infected area.  Volunteer doctors and medical staff help; needles and other tools are supplied.  This is timed with a huge marketing campaign concocted by Madison Avenue and Wall Street, stocks go up, and dividends prosper.

This GoverCorp plot is given full court press by the media.  For instance, a New York Times column by Thomas L. Friedman (of The World is Flat mentality), on April 20, 2007:  Friedman applauds Bill Gates’ and Novartis’ invasion of Africa.  According to Friedman, we “need to channel [Africa’s] wild, unregulated, informal, individual brand of capitalism” into “formal companies.”  We learn Africa “needs capitalists” like Bill Gates.  It also needs Novartis, which through Advanced Bio-Extracts (ABE) and its head Patrick Henfrey, is paying farmers to grow a “green leafy plant ‘artemisia,’ often called ‘sweet wormwood’ and transform it into a pharmaceutical grade artemisinin–a botanical extract that is the key ingredient in the new generation of low-cost effective malaria treatments.”  We also find Mr. Henley has “contracted with 7000 farmers, most with small farms to grow Artemisia in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.  The crop gives farmers four times the financial yield of corn.”

Yes, but it doesn’t feed them, I claim, and when food becomes more expensive than the money can buy, farmers are left worse off than before.  Also, subsequent reports point to growing resistance of the Plasmodium (malaria) parasite to the manufactured drugs.

For world healing to begin, it’s crucial that Americans recognize the hypocrisy of the system we’ve created.  This first essay in the “Here’s How” series hopes to show more than tell how America’s pompous claims to greatness look more and more delusional on the world stage.

*”Killa-Cola,” by Keith Hyams,  the ecologist, April, 2004.