You don’t often hear the mainstream claiming the U.S. has the best healthcare system anymore. Because we don’t. By almost all measures, U.S. healthcare has fallen far behind the rest of the developed world.
In fact, we only lead the world in one area of healthcare: spending. And nowhere does the gap between spending and performance stand out more than in our “drug delivery system.”
In simple terms, the U.S. has a drug problem, and opioids play just a tiny part. Not only does this put you in danger… it’s draining your wallet.
Here’s what Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know.
The Drug Companies Have a Shoot First, Ask Questions Later Attitude
Millions of Americans take blood thinners. There’s evidence they may help prevent stroke or second heart attacks. Aspirin and warfarin are probably the two best known. But their patents expired decades ago. So everyone under the sun can make a generic version.
To keep profits up, drug companies are under constant pressure to come up with new drugs to patent. That’s where the real money is. Sometimes these new drugs are better than older ones, but often they’re not.
As long as they’re reasonably effective, Big Pharma will push the new drugs to improve their profits.
This pressure to perform leads to all sorts of problems. Like cherry-picking the studies used to submit a drug for approval. And failing to publish less favorable studies.
Drug companies seem to favor a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude. Get the drug out in the market… and deal with any problems later. As long as the FDA will approve it, people will buy it.
As may be the case with two newer blood thinners.
FDA Approval Doesn’t Guarantee Effectiveness… or Safety
Back in late 2015, there was a news story that most folks overlooked. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug to reverse the effects of Pradaxa – one of a newer breed of blood thinners.
Pradaxa was approved by the FDA in 2010 to treat certain people at risk for stroke.
Four years later, Pradaxa’s maker agreed to a $650 million settlement. Because they were faced with 4,000 legal claims. Claims from people who hadn’t been warned that Pradaxa could cause uncontrolled bleeding.
In 2015, Praxbind – a drug that reverses Pradaxa’s effects was approved under the FDAs “fast track” approval program. Problem solved.
Then, in February 2016, news broke about another blood thinner. This time it was the drug Xarelto.
New research questioned a key study used to gain approval for Xarelto… which is used to treat the same stroke risk as Pradaxa.
It seems the Xarelto trial used equipment that had been recalled for inaccuracy in 2014. This could have invalidated the results of the trial. And Xarelto could have proven to be less safe than claimed.
Fortunately, a study published the following year found Xarelto was no less safe than warfarin. It appears we dodged a bullet on that one. But that didn’t make the risk any less real.
And the problem isn’t just with drug companies or the FDA. Every aspect of this issue seems to be broken. Even how doctors prescribe drugs can seem crazy.
Don’t Solve the Problem; Manage the Result
Imagine for a moment you’re a city manager. A water line serving the heart of downtown has ruptured, and many of your city’s most important businesses suddenly have little or no water.
What do you do? Do you direct the fire department to deliver water daily to every downtown business… from now until the problem solves itself? Or do you repair the damaged water main?
I think the answer’s pretty obvious. Yet doctors don’t seem to be taking this approach when it comes to the type II diabetes epidemic.
A report in the journal Obesity uncovered the insane truth. Doctors in the U.S. have no less than six anti-obesity drugs available. Yet they prescribe diabetes medications 15 times more often than anti-obesity drugs.
Here’s the thing: Obesity is a major cause of diabetes. Get Americans’ weight down, and the rate of diabetes will drop like a stone. Yet doctors prescribe anti-obesity drugs for only 2% of those who might benefit.
They’ve opted to have the fire department deliver water until the problem solves itself.
If that sounds crazy to you, it is. I’m not a big fan of anti-obesity drugs… but they’re a better option than a nation of diabetics.
And it just gets crazier.
How About a Side of “Oops!” With That Surgery?
A couple of years ago, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital did something bold. They “tattled” on their own. And we should listen, because Mass General is one of the premier healthcare centers in the U.S.
Doctors there followed 277 surgical procedures. Direct observation made this study stand out. Earlier studies relied on self-reported data. So it was no surprise those earlier studies found few errors.
But when a third party – the Mass General team – followed the surgeries, they discovered a disturbing trend. In half of these cases, patients were either given wrong drugs… or drugs that came with unwanted side effects.
In practical terms, that’s a 50% failure rate. And this was at one of our premier hospitals! Imagine what the rate may be at the many lesser institutions across America.
And here’s the shocker… Every drug given to a patient is supposedly checked by the ordering doctor, the hospital pharmacist, and the nurse who hands out the pills. With three checks, mistakes still happen.
None of the errors in this study led to a death. But still… patients suffered because of preventable errors.
What else can go wrong? Well…
You’re Paying through the Nose for This Mess
We’ve seen problems with drug companies… the FDA… doctors… and even hospitals. Where else could things go wrong?
How about Congress?
You see, your lawmakers, in their infinite wisdom, have hamstringed Medicare. By law, Medicare can’t negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma.
Yup. Your blessed representatives sold your health to the highest bidder. And that bidder was Big Pharma. You never had a chance.
That’s why your drugs cost far, far more than drugs in other countries. Countries like the United Kingdom (UK).
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) provides healthcare to more than 60 million people. And pays among the lowest drug prices in the developed world.
The purchasing power of 64 million people isn’t something Big Pharma can ignore. And the NHS has used that power to negotiate favorable prices for most drugs.
One of the NHS’s tricks is to rate the effectiveness of drugs. A high-cost drug that delivers fewer benefits may not even be approved for purchase at all. And that means the maker of that drug earns ZERO in the UK.
The system isn’t perfect, but most drugs cost a fraction of their U.S. price in the UK.
You’ll find a similar system – and similarly lower prices – in virtually every developed country outside the U.S.
So, what can you do about this mess?
Use the Power of Numbers
If there’s one thing your representatives in Washington fear more than Big Pharma, it’s losing their cushy jobs. And you can play this to your advantage.
According to government statistics, more than 55 million people are covered by Medicare. With another 71.6 million covered by the Medicaid program. That’s more than 126 million people – about 38% of our country’s population.
With that kind of bargaining power, Medicare and Medicaid could bring down drug prices sharply. But you’ll have to lean on your representatives.
If your senators or congressman think for one minute they’ll have to get a real job if they don’t abandon Big Pharma, they’ll jump ship in a heartbeat. And only you can convince them.
Finally, we need to demand that the FDA step back from its dependence on the very companies it’s supposed to regulate.
Right now, the FDA depends on Big Pharma for a significant portion of its funding. And that makes for too cozy a relationship. The drug companies simply have too much influence.
America has a drug problem. And it’s only going to get worse… unless we step in to stop it. Fortunately, that’s pretty easy.
Go to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials to find out how to contact your senators and representative in the House. Then send a sharply worded e-mail. Or call.
Now is the perfect time to demand action… because it’s an election year. And an awful lot of lawmakers are running scared. You may never have a better opportunity to make your drugs cheaper and safer.
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.
“FDA approves drug to reverse blood thinner Pradaxa,” KDWN.com. Oct 18, 2015.
“Investigation casts doubt over trial used to support top-selling anti-clotting drug,” ScienceDaily. Feb 4, 2016.
Russo-Alvarez, G., et al, “Thromboembolic and Major Bleeding Events With Rivaroxaban Versus Warfarin Use in a Real-World Setting,” Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 2018; 52(1): 19-25.
“Doctors prescribe diabetes treatment medications 15 times more than obesity drugs,” ScienceDaily. Aug 29, 2016.
Navarro, A., “Medication Errors, Unwanted Drug Side Effects Seen In Half Of Surgeries,” TechTimes. Oct 26, 2015.
Quinn, A., “Why Drugs Cost Less in the U.K. Than in the U.S.,” Bloomberg Businessweek. Sep 4, 2017.
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