Drugs save tens of thousands of people every year. And help millions more live normal lives. But there’s a dark side to this feel-good story.
As often as a drug helps someone, Big Pharma picks someone else’s pocket. Heck… Most of the time, Big Pharma picks the pockets of those their products help, too.
Drug companies have two main allies in this racket. Here’s what you need to know to avoid becoming a victim…
Why Doctors Often Prescribe by Name Brand Rather Than Purpose
For most conditions, your doctor could choose from any number of drugs. But a remarkable number of doctors prescribe specific name-brand drugs. Why?
To begin with, many get a lot of their drug information from drug company salespeople. They also get a lot of perks. And a new study reveals just how easily many doctors are swayed.
A brand-new study from Boston Medical Center shows that doctors often lean towards a particular company’s drug after receiving just a free meal or two.
The study looked at 369,139 doctors. They found that Big Pharma spent very little to influence prescriptions for opioids.
Doctors who received any form of “opioid-related” payment were more likely to prescribe opioids. In fact, those who took payments in 2014 prescribed – on average – 9.3% more opioids the following than doctors who didn’t.
The most common bribe? A meal valued at an average of $13.00.
Think about that for a moment. Tens of thousands of doctors can be influenced to prescribe highly addictive drugs for a mere $13.00.
Of course, Big Pharma bribes doctors to prescribe a lot more than just opioids. They push for whatever is the “latest and greatest.” With meals, conferences, merchandise… whatever it takes.
Why the latest and greatest? The answer is simple: Money.
The “Newer Is Better” Myth
How many times have you heard an advertiser say, “New and Improved!” Dozens? Maybe even hundreds?
Advertisers love to imply that the latest version of something is the greatest. Because that gets people to buy the new product. Even if they have an older version that’s perfectly serviceable.
Big Pharma is no different. And they have an incentive that many companies don’t: patents.
The race in the drug world is to devise a new drug for a condition before their patent on the old version runs out.
Patented drugs are where the money is. When your patent expires, anyone can make and sell that drug. And generic versions of a drug normally sell for a fraction of the cost of the name-brand version.
In other words, your billion-dollar baby suddenly becomes an also-ran.
The solution? A “new and improved” drug that debuts before the patent runs out on the old one. Add in a sales blitz for the new drug, and your profits are assured for another few years.
The problem? While some new drugs are clearly better than older versions, most aren’t.
Way back in 1999, doctors from across Europe compared new blood pressure drugs against older ones. They looked at 6,614 mature adults on blood pressure drugs and discovered…
The new, expensive drugs were no more effective than the older ones. Drops in blood pressure were almost identical. So were the numbers for fatal and non-fatal stroke and heart disease. And for other heart-related deaths.
In other words, the big difference was the price.
And this wasn’t an article in some obscure journal. It was published in Britain’s pre-eminent source of medical information, The Lancet.
Italian researchers compared old and new antiepileptic drugs. Some of the drugs were as much as 70 years old. What they found was the new drugs were no more effective than the older ones… although some of the newer drugs were better tolerated.
But, overall, the rationale for switching to new, expensive drugs was limited.
In 2005, Canadian researchers reported on a survey of 1,147 drugs introduced between 1990 and 2003.
Of those drugs, 1005 – almost 88% – “did not provide a substantial improvement over existing drug products.”
That’s right. Almost 9 out of 10 new drugs really weren’t an improvement. Except to the drug companies’ bottom lines.
What’s even worse is who the drug companies have recruited to help them sell these new drugs.
Big Pharma’s Unwitting Sales Associate: You
Did you know only two developed countries allow drug companies to market directly to consumers? Only New Zealand and the U.S. let Big Pharma put ads on TV, in magazines, and on the radio or Internet.
Why? Because most countries realize doctors can be swayed by their patient’s demands. And drug ads aren’t as regulated as you might think.
For example, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn’t review or approve drug ads before they run. If they happen to see an ad they believe is inaccurate, they write (yes… write) to the advertiser and ask them to stop running the ad.
Meanwhile, millions of impressionable people have seen the ad… and some of them have asked their doctor why they’re not getting the latest drug for their condition. Many doctors will buckle simply to keep their patent happy. Your doctor wants to get the job done… whether it’s with drug X or drug Y.
What you’ll never see, though, is an ad for a drug whose patent is close to – or past – its expiration date. Because there’s little profit in that drug. Big Pharma wants you hooked on the latest, most expensive option. Because that’s how they make their billions.
They know just a tiny handful of patients will actually look into the drugs they advertise. Even fewer will dig deep enough to discover how many of them – nearly 9 out of 10 – perform no better than older, less expensive options.
So, what can you do?
Protect Yourself From Big Pharma’s Assault on Your Wallet
Every business wants your money. But drug companies are in a unique position to drain you dry. Because you sometimes need their products to maintain your health.
So you have to be extra-vigilant when your doctor gives you a prescription.
First, know if your doctor accepts meals, gifts, or other perks from drug companies. A growing number of doctors are banning Big Pharma’s sales reps from their offices. That’s a sign the doctor will only prescribe what he/she genuinely feels is necessary.
Always ask your doctor why they’ve chosen a brand name drug. Ask if a generic version – if available – will do. If not, is there an equivalent drug that has a generic version?
Finally, never ask your doctor to prescribe a certain drug because you’ve seen it advertised. Studies show these advertisements can be confusing or misleading to the average consumer.
And, don’t forget: 9 out of 10 new drugs offer little – if any – advantage over older, cheaper options. Unless you have one of the few exceptions, you’ll just be wasting a lot of your hard-earned money.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Marketing to Physicians by Opioid Pharma Companies Leads to More Opioid Prescriptions,” Boston Medical Center. May 14, 2018.
Hansson, L., et al, “Randomised trial of old and new antihypertensive drugs in elderly patients,” The Lancet. Nov 20, 1999. 34(9192): 1751-1756.
Prucca, E., “Marketed New Antiepileptic Drugs: Are They Better Than Old-Generation Agents?” Therapeutic Drug Monitoring. Feb 2002; 24(1): 74-80.
Morgan, S.G., et al, “’Breakthrough’ drugs and growth in expenditure on prescription drugs in Canada,” BMJ. 2005; 331: 815
He, S., “Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising,” AJN. Jan 2015; 115(1): 11.
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