The 12 Sectors / Health

The Medical Establishment

By Foster Gamble

Danger: Sickness is Profitable

Our health care system has a fundamental flaw: more money is made when people are sick rather than healthy. Pharmaceuticals profit when they sell more drugs and doctors make more money when they see more patients.

How did we develop such a backwards system and why is there so much emphasis on treating sickness with pills? When I followed the money, I found that the same banking elite who control all major areas of human endeavor – such as oil, food, and education – are also behind the current health care system. The Rockefeller Foundation plays an integral part in funding universities to teach drug-based medicine. They then profit from investments in major pharmaceutical companies. At the same time, the American Medical Association (AMA) and major pharmaceutical corporations – also backed by the banking elite – lobby and fund politicians in Washington while suppressing viable health alternatives. You can learn more about this history of control and suppression in the “Follow the Money” section of the website.

How has this influenced the health care system we have today?

  • The health-care industry profits more from sickness than from health Pharmaceuticals are in the business of selling drugs. The more they can manage, rather than cure, disease, the more money they can make.
  • Mainstream medical education emphasizes drug research and treatment M.D.’s can only get degrees through universities that have been accredited by the AMA. The AMA sets the standards for medical education, which heavily emphasizes drug based treatment and research. 
  • Only patentable cures are of interest to drug companies Natural remedies – such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, herbal supplements and remedies and homeopathy (which have all proven to improve health) – can not be patented and therefore are of little interest to drug companies. As a result, many people are unaware of these natural, viable, cheaper health solutions and doctors are not adequately informed about them either. Health insurance companies also do not cover many of these natural solutions, so patients seek out mainstream treatments in order to save money.

 

What’s wrong with the Pharmaceutical industry?

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most powerful, profitable, and influential industries in the world. Here are some of the key problems:

 

  • Pharmaceuticals have giant lobbying teams – Pharmaceuticals were the largest lobby in Washington in 2007, spending more than $168 million. [1]
  • Pharmaceuticals fund political campaigns – From 1997-2005, the pharmaceutical and health products industry gave almost $150 million in campaign contributions.[2]
  • Pharmaceuticals fund research and education – The drug industry has increased spending on doctor education from $302 million in 1998 to $1.2 billion in 2006. The result is that we have clinics and hospitals staffed with people who are educated primarily in the drug-treatment paradigm, prescribing medications that are often produced by the funders of their education.[3]
  • Pharmaceuticals wine, dine, and compensate doctors – A study done by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 94% of doctor’s have ties to the drug industry, 80% accept free food and drug samples, and 28% were paid for giving lectures, signing patients up for clinical trials, or consulting.[4] Most of the time this isn’t disclosed to patients so they’re unaware of their doctor’s conflicts of interest.
  • Pharmaceuticals patent life and exploit indigenous knowledge – Pharmaceuticals are gaining a monopoly over biological diversity. Approximately 90% of the world’s biological resources are in developing countries, yet 95% of patents on life are held in industrial countries. [5] Large pharmaceuticals often consult with indigenous people in order to learn about beneficial plants. They then patent the plant (or the beneficial organism within it) without acknowledging or compensating indigenous people for their shared knowledge. This patent gives the pharmaceuticals exclusive rights – also known as Intellectual Property Rights – to develop and profit from the sale of commercial drugs. If indigenous people or others use or sell the patented plants, they can be tried in court for violating the patent, which has already happened many times.
  • Pharmaceuticals promote the use of more drugs –Pharmaceuticals are in the business of pushing more drugs. You see them in commercials, advertisements, doctor’s offices, conferences, universities, health publications, journals, and more. When a drug’s patent is about to expire, pharmaceutical companies who own the patent will often market a “new” drug that is essentially the same, it’s just re-branded and re-named.
  • Pharmaceuticals run aggressive marketing campaigns – For example, in 2005 for every dollar Pfizer spent on scientific research, it spent $2.28 on marketing and administrative costs. [6]
  • Prescription medications can be harmful – In 2003, Americans purchased 2.8 billion prescription drugs, an average of almost 10 prescriptions per person. In the U.S. our population is dramatically overmedicated, and sometimes the consequences are deadly. Prescription drugs are a leading cause of death in the U.S. – experts estimate that at least 100,000 Americans die every year from prescription drugs, or about 270 people every day.[7]

 

What’s wrong with the American Medical Association?

The AMA is the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S.

  • The AMA is a major lobbying force The AMA spends big money on lobbying. In 2009 it was revealed that the AMA uses the same lobbyists as big pharmaceutical companies. One of the AMA’s top lobbying firms, the McManus Group, also lobbies for PhRMA, Eli Lilly & Co, Merck and Pfizer.[8] In 2010, the AMA spent nearly $22 million to influence the passage of federal health care reform.[9]
  • The AMA enforces the status quo through its Journal, JAMA –  JAMA is the most widely circulated medical journal in the world. It receives major funding through its advertisers, many of which are pharmaceuticals. It also has a heavy emphasis on pharmacology. 
  • The AMA suppresses alternative treatments and cures – The editor of JAMA is very influential, and has historically played a significant role in suppressing alternative health treatments. Morris Fishbein, editor of JAMA from 1924-1950, was directly engaged in suppressing Royal Rife’s cancer cure.

Pharmaceutical corporations – such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis – and the AMA have a partnership to enforce allopathic medicine and suppress alternatives. They receive support and funding from the banking elite who are largely responsible for our current health care system and they continue to profit from it.

 

Opportunity: Whole-Systems Healing

The human body is designed to thrive. Being healthy is its natural state. When you introduce unnatural substances, our bodies become unbalanced.  This realization has led many people to take a more holistic approach to healing that addresses not just physical symptoms, but also thoughts, emotions, lifestyle, nutrition, and loving relations.  This acknowledges that the human body is a whole integrated system equipped with a powerful immune system to fight off sickness and disease.  Alternative practices — such as naturopathy, acupuncture, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine — assist the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Most holistic healing practices are not covered by health insurance. This makes it nearly impossible for low-income individuals to get alternative care. As we consider new health care systems, this should be considered and addressed so that everyone has a choice in the type of care they receive. To learn more about this, you can check out the THRIVE solutions strategies.


Contributing Authors: Claire Darling and Kimberly Gamble

 



[1] Top Pharmaceutical Lobby Spenders in 2007 by the Center for Public Integrity: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/rx/images/Chart_1.jpg

[2] Checkbook Politics by Victoria Kreha: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/rx//report.aspx?aid=720

[3] For more details on how this is achieved, check out a study by the Journal Sentinel: Drug Firms’ Cash Skews Doctor Classes investigating the University of Wisconsin’s drug ties: http://www.jsonline.com/news/42064977.html

[4] The New England Journal of Medicine. A National Survey of Physician-Industry Relationships. April 26, 2007.  Volume 356: 1740-1750, Number 17. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/356/17/1742

[5] Biopiracy: A New Threat to Indigenous Rights and Culture in Mexico by Global Exchange. April 2001: http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/biopiracy.pdf

[6] Melody Petersen. Our Daily Meds. New York: Picador, 2008. (p. 155)

[7] Lazarou, et al. Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients. The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 279 No. 15. April 15, 1998.

[8] Political Correction: A Project of Media Matters Action Network. The AMA’s Lobbyists and Political Contributions. June 11, 2009. http://politicalcorrection.org/factcheck/200906110008

[9] NPR. Doctors Were Big Spenders on Health Lobbying in 2010 by Bara Vaida. January 27, 2011. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/01/28/133278997/doctors-ama-were-the-big-spenders-on-health-lobbying-in-2010

 

Critical Issues

How did we get a health care system that profits when you're sick, rather than when you're healthy?
Why would we let an international food organization set global food standards when it protects pharmaceuticals and allows dangerous GMOs into our food supply?
Why haven't there been any significant breakthroughs in finding cancer cures?