I recently met a gentleman in our store and had a great discussion on the topic of patents. I have to admit, I never really thought much about patents and their value in our society or relation to the pharmaceutical industry. I did some research and thought I would share this information for those of you who are interested.
A Patent is a government grant giving you the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling your invention.
Patents are a BIG deal in our world. So big, that during the burning of Washington in 1814, the White House, U.S. Capitol, Senate Building, House of Representatives, United States Treasury, Library of Congress and the Navy Yard were all burned, however the United States Patent Office building was not. The British understood the utter importance of preserving this building and it was spared from the fires. Interesting little fact isn't it?
History of Patents
Different forms of patent laws have been enforced since the 1600's, however it wasn't until 1787 when the Constitution of the United States adopted a provision that stated: “The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Over the years, many unfavourable views of patents started to arise within the population. They mostly began during the 1890 depression, and also the Great Depression and WWII. People perceived this practice as a method of promoting monopolies.
History of Pharmaceuticals
In the early part of the 20th century, a group of powerful wealthy individuals such as JP Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller recognized that the 'industrialization' of health care could give them more wealth and more opportunities to control. They were able to blend the biochemistry breakthroughs such as penicillin and insulin, with their billions of dollars to develop technological mass production methods and machinery that took pill production to a new level.
In the late 1970's, legislation allowed for patents to be issued to cover both the manufacturing process and the chemical composition of the product and opened the door to the current model we have of big businesses financial exploitation of patent rights over technology to produce synthetic drugs. If this topic is of interest to you I am sure you would enjoy Rockefeller Medicine Men. I have yet to read it, however it is on my list! Historically this was when the patient became the customer, and the medication became the commodity. The fact that most pharmaceutical drugs have side effects that other drugs can help - well, I would imagine that was just a lucky break for these guys!
The 1990's brought about some new challenges including pressure from animal rights activists fighting against using animals to test the drugs. It was also the 1990's that these big pharma companies started using contract research organizations for clinical trials. Conflict of interest? What do you think? The 1990's were also the years where the pharmaceutical companies started to market their drugs directly to the consumer, whereas before, they were only sold to the physicians. With the internet in most people's homes and TV and radio ads, many of the anti-depressants became the new best sellers to the unhappy people on the other end.
How are Drugs Created?
There are a few different ways that the pharmaceutical industry creates new drugs. Some are created out of luck, or what is called serendipitous discovery. Basically, a stroke of chance, somebody is trying to fix one thing and in the process they realize that it helps another. A classic example of this is Zyban, a drug that was formulated for depression but in the process was found to cut down on nicotine addiction. Now the drug is prescribed for depression and for quitting smoking. If you are a depressed smoker then you are in luck with this one!
Modern day biochemistry is a big one. Many universities and research institutions that are learning about metabolic pathways related to disease are able to find ways to manipulate molecules that can help fight the symptoms of the disease.
The most popular are the drugs discovered by the Pharmaceutical industry by isolating the active ingredient from traditional remedies. Because you can not patent a natural herb, these pharmaceutical companies will invest millions of dollars into isolating the active molecules in the herbs and finding suitable chemical alternatives to match as closely as they can.
Show me the money!
Like ALL corporations on the planet, it is understandable that the pharmaceutical companies manufacture products for profit. Prescription drugs are big business. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research averages 23 new drug approvals per year. Reported revenues for these big giants between 1995-2010 rose by $200.4 billion.
Each new drug is estimated today to bring in between $4-$11 billion dollars for the company with the patent. You may or may not be aware that prescription drug pricing in the US and Canada is not regulated. Basically this means that these big pharmaceutical giants can charge whatever price they want for the drugs. Some drugs can cost the patient up to $100,000/yr - clearly this is the industry taking advantage of scared patients who will do anything for a cure. The drug companies would say that this is due to the higher cost of research and development however the profits that these corporations are reporting far exceed the cost of R&D. Drug companies are spending more than three times as much as they used to on marketing and advertising driving the cost of the drugs up considerably. In 1996 they spent $9 billion dollars promoting their drugs, in 2000 that went up to $16 billion and in 2012 $27 billion! According to this Huffington Post Article: "for every dollar pharmaceutical companies spend on "basic research," $19 goes toward promotion and marketing." Today drugs are being marketed before they are even available for sale! There have been a few drugs that have come out in the past 10 years that had a marketing campaigns of 1 billion dollars. Just imagine what you could do with that amount of money to promote a product!
This whole business model is based on the idea of people being sick. To cure or remove the diseases would be slightly counter-intuitive now wouldn't it? All this money being made, well, if the diseases were cured just think of the millions of people out of jobs. A whole industry would be dissolved.
More than a quarter of the 50 largest corporations in the world are pharmaceutical based. Pfizer for instance is the largest of all the pharmaceutical companies, currently valued at $265 billion dollars. Just to make that a bit more real, that is 265,000,000,000. Does that number even register to you? Lets compare it for example to the Gross National Product of Switzerland which is 263,000,000,000. Pfizer owns patent rights to Viagara, Zoloft, Lipitor and many more, bringing them 32 billion dollars of sales just in 2002 alone.
Many cases have come up over the years where the pharmaceutical companies sponsored research was not published because it was unfavourable. It wasn't until recently that new guidelines have been set that companies have to report all findings. There has also been a limit set on how much money a pharmaceutical company can pay a research team to test their drugs. Just like in hockey where they had to put in a cap for paying the players - now big pharma can't pay off the research crews to show better data to help their drugs get approved.
The line between pharmaceutical companies and those who research their products is very blurred. Many journal articles are presented by academic researchers that are actually 'ghost-written' by representatives of the pharmaceutical companies who are paying them to do the research. This is a huge conflict, and one that is not being addressed by our government at this time. Many whistleblowers who have revealed the ethical issues with these clinical trials have been threatened with lawsuits from drug companies and lost their jobs. An example of this is Dr. Koos Stiekema who was sued by Organon for sharing his concerns about the ethics of a clinical trial.
In May 2004 Pfizer had to pay a $430 million dollar settlement for deceptive marking, medicaid fraud and illegal kickbacks, in particular for the epilepsy drug Neurotin. Read more here. Gardiner Harris a New York Times Journalist said in his article on this topic, "As Doctors write prescriptions, drug companies write cheques."
In 2009 a company called ProPublica an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism on public interest, found that 21 doctors were paid more than $500,000 by drug manufactures for speeches to promote their drugs. Half of these top earners were working in psychiatry.
At the alPHa (Association of Local Public Health Agencies) Annual 2013 Conference this year, hosted by our Ontario Health Minster Deb Matthews, the members attended an opening reception at The View restaurant in Toronto, where they enjoyed spectacular views of the Toronto waterfront while munching on shrimp canapés and skewers of meat. At 10:30am, alPHa President Dr. Paul Roumeliotis "stood to welcome all delegates to alPHa’s 27th Annual Conference, including members, colleagues from partner organizations, special guests and public health and preventive medicine residents from across Ontario who have taken a break from their studies and residencies to join us. He also acknowledged sponsors Merck, Public Health Ontario, the Public Health Division, Pfizer Canada, Vaccines Division, and Mosey & Mosey Insurance for helping to make this conference possible." Okay, so let me get this straight… Pfizer is sponsoring the Association of Local Public Health conference? Does anybody else see the madness in all of this?
A little more about Rockefeller...
In 1913, the year after Rockefeller was found guilty by the Supreme Court for corruption, illegal business practices and racketeering in the oil industry, he began to use philanthropy to fix his shattered public image. The Rockefeller Foundation was created as a tax haven and was used strategically to take over the health care sector of the US. The first new venture he worked on was called the pharmaceutical investment business where donations to his foundation went directly to medical schools and hospitals. It was these schools and hospitals that became the first manufacturers and researchers of patented synthetic drugs.
It wasn't long until they were faced with some opposition. The naturopathic doctors that were treating patients successfully with natural herbs and vitamins… This turned out to be a major problem, a thorn in their side, you see, these natural products could not be patented. For the next 50 years, Rockefeller worked in different ways to fix this problem.
It wasn't only the Americans who realized how much money could be made in this new industry. The Germans were also on the bandwagon, fighting for control of the global pharmaceutical drug market. In 1929, the Rockefeller cartel and the I.G. Farben cartel decided to work together to divide the globe into interest spheres. This is the very crime that he had been sentenced for 18 years earlier in the oil business.
In the 1930's, the German I.G. Farben cartel followed the uprising German politician who promised them world domination of pharmaceutical drug sales. One of the first acts that was done when Hitler captured a country was to assign the existing pharmaceutical companies over to the cartel. Not only that, but the cartel was given open door access to the concentration camp inmates to test their drugs on.
When the Germans lost the war, all I.G. Farben shares went directly to the Rockefeller, Rothschild and JP. Morgan trusts.
In the 1960's a 40 year crusade began to outlaw natural vitamin and herbal therapies for all countries part of the United Nations. The plan was simple, create a monopoly on health care reliant on the manufacturing and patenting process of pharmaceutical drugs.
Disease is good!
The existence of disease is what fuels this industry. These drugs were never meant to cure any disease, they were created to mask the symptoms while producing toxic side effects sometimes worse than the disease. If anybody believes that the main goal of the big pharma is to cure disease, it is my opinion that they are in denial about the truth.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 people are killed by prescription drugs every day. Just think about that for a moment… imagine what 290 people in a room would look like. These people are not dying from their disease, they are dying form the drugs! That doesn't include those who are dying a slow death from prolonged pharmaceutical drug intake. How many patients are now being diagnosed with disorders such as "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", "Irritable Bowel Syndrome", "Restless Leg Syndrome" without even thinking about why their patients are chronically tired, why they are having prolonged digestive distress or restless legs at night. Then getting their prescription pads out to treat the symptoms with Vyvanse, Nuvigil, Provigil, Adderall, Lomotil, Questran, Lotronex, Norpramin, Mirapex, Neupro… the list goes on.
It has been documented that most people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome are in reality suffering from a nutritional deficiency. What a shame that most doctors will not even entertain the idea of a nutritional deficiency when talking about any disease or syndrome. If you ask me, this is inhumane treatment from a person of power towards a weaker individual. Most people, when seeking out the help of a doctor, are in pain and distress and in many cases in fear of their life. Weak and afraid, they do what they were taught as a child to do, which is exactly 'what their doctor tells them'.
Are the doctors of today the new drug dealers?
One out of every five people in North America currently have or have had an addiction to a pharmaceutical drug. Pharmaceutical drug overdose is a huge epidemic in America. In 2007 for instance, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids outnumbered deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. In the past decade there has been a 61% increase in prescribed meds. The use of prescribed oxycodone has increased by 732% between 1997 - 2006. In 2012 Vicodin, a pain reliever, was the #1 prescribed pill.
Doctors are not trained on how to teach their patients how to eat properly and exercise. Remember Rockefeller and his plight to control health care? Most medical schools in the US were started by large donations from the Rockefeller Foundation. The average doctor graduates with just 25 hours of nutrition education that entails creating a daily log of their food intake and then analyzing the results. Are our medical schools becoming shills for big pharma?
From 2002-2006 the University of Toronto offered a pain management course for their medical students that was partly funded by grants from Purdue. For those of you who don't know, Purdue Pharma LP are the makers of Oxycontin. As part of the course, Purdue distributes to the students free of charge a chronic pain management book linking treatment for chronic pain to their drug. Conflict of Interest? What do you think?
New medical residents are scouted out and approached by drug company sales reps giving them free drug sample thus influencing the prescribing practices of these new doctors.
In 2008 Joseph Biederman, a Massachusetts General Hospital child psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor took more than $1.6 million dollars from a pharmaceutical industry to promote their brand of antipsychotic drugs to his patients.
It has been found that nearly two-thirds of the medical school academic leaders have ties with big pharma.
Doctors are paid to treat patients on the basis of a business model. Once the patient has been diagnosed with a disease or condition, the physician is rewarded via the government (as in Canada), or from insurance companies (as in the US) for treatment of this disease. Unfortunately, the form of treatment is dictated by the medical industries guidelines. These guidelines state that any kind of natural remedies are considered non-scientific or quackery. Because there is no money in natural substances, their effects on treating human disease are scarcely researched and the studies that are done are not entered into traditional medical journals for medical reference. For fear of losing their medical license, doctors choose to conform to the taught pharmaceutical drug treatment. Also lets not forget the big dollar $$$... the more patients the doctor treats in a day, the more money they make. It takes much less time to take out a prescription pad then it does to research and discover the root of the problem.
The truth is that pharmaceutical companies have no interest in working with natural remedies of disease. There is just no $$$ in it. Synthetic chemical drugs are BIG money, BIG profits and BIG customer (in this case the patient) exploitation. Doctors can't risk treating their patients with vitamins or other natural therapies. These doctors have expensive lives, hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans to pay off, large boats, houses that they need to maintain, you know… status quo! In Canada the average doctor makes $350,000/yr in the US $435,000/yr. Look, I am not saying that they don't deserve to make these salaries, I know they work hard and spend many years educating themselves, just letting you know that when you are making a certain amount of money every year based on patient load, it is difficult to downsize, no matter if it is the right thing to do for your patients.
Modern medicine is evolving into a disease management treatment centre where the root cause of disease is not being researched, only the disease symptoms.
In my opinion, the war that we should be fighting on drugs isn't only located in a back alley at the end of a dark street, in many cases, it is right in front of our faces. It is scary to think that currently the largest growth sector of the pharmaceutical industry is in drugs for children. With ADHD and Autism on the rise as well as childhood obesity and diabetes, new drugs are being formulated specifically for children. Not to forget the antipsychotic, antidepressants and other psychiatric meds to help the children with mental illness… What kind of new generation are we raising, already hooked on prescription drugs by the age of 10? Pretty scary stuff if you ask me…
All these new drugs, are they really helping us? Are we living longer? Are we a healthier population? Those are big questions. While I will agree that there are cases where pharmaceutical drugs have saved lives, it is my strong belief that as soon as the health of the population was turned over to the the patented BIG pharma industry, the true nature of health care went down the toilet.
I apologize if this all sounds so negative. The good news is that you can educate yourselves! If you have a disease, ask your doctor to answer your questions as to why you have this disease. If he/she can't answer your question, or can only tell you that it is genetic, look elsewhere. Find the natural healers in your area, read about the other people who are successfully treating their diseases with different holistic treatments. Learn about your disease and what has caused it. There are many answers out there for you to take in. There is so much more out there than a prescription pad. And… if you are unsure, you can always take the prescriptions and also look into other options at the same time. Just please don't limit yourself to one form of treatment. Look beyond, think about the power of nutrition and the centuries of medicinal herbs that have healed thousands of people all over the world before the Rockefellers took over!
It is so important to ask yourselves questions, such as; are you eating enough nutrients, are you giving your body proper rest, are you dealing with stress in a positive way, do you smoke, how many cups of coffee do you drink a day, are you washing with toxic carcinogenic soaps and chemicals, are you eating toxic preserved foods out of cans or boxes, are you eating out at fast food restaurants, how often do you prepare your meals, how many servings of vegetables are you eating a day? These are questions that only YOU know the answer to.
It is never too late to make changes in your lifestyle. You can do it! Feed you cells, give you body what it is craving and no I don't mean sugar fat or salt… I mean nutrient dense foods, lots of water, lots of rest, lots of love…