How many of us read the business section of the New York Times in detail? Well, I've begun to -- regularly, at least, if not in great detail, to check which cracks in the corporate iceberg are on display. During the past week, the pharmaceuticals have been getting a drubbing.
Europeans are furious. European Union's competitiveness (uh, the basis of capitalism, right?) commissioner, Neelie Kroes, is going after the drug companies for preventing competition. Surprise.
Here at home we're taking drugs we don't need. The cheaper, old-fashioned ones worked better. Six years after finding that the old stuff is just fine, doctors are still being persuaded to prescribe the newer drugs in spite of the fact that at least one causes a 38% increase in heart failure.
"The surprising news made headlines in December 2002. Generic pills for high blood pressure which had been in use since the 1950s and cost only pennies a day, worked better than newer drugs that were up to 20 times as expensive high blood pressure, which had been in use since the 1950s and cost only pennies a day, worked better than newer drugs that were up to 20 times as expensive.
"The findings, from one of the biggest clinical trials ever organized by the federal government, promised to save the nation billions of dollars in treating the tens of millions of Americans with hypertension — even if the conclusions did seem to threaten pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer that were making big money on blockbuster hypertension drugs."
Two prominent doctors have been in the news during the past week because of their very lucrative ties to drug companies. Dr. Joseph Biederman, a well-known child pyschiatrist, has been pushing drugs on his young patients and their families.
The other is Fred Goodwin, a respected psychiatrist who also serves as a program host for NPR. Godowin has been profiting from his relationship with Smith Glaxo Kline. In return for well over $1 million, he's been selling the idea -- on Public Radio -- of dosing your kids with bipolar treatments.
These, and more details of how drug companies protect and increase their profits, are just one week's worth of New York Times reporting. In the Business Section. Keep this in mind: these doctors probably haven't received anything like the money Pharma has doled out to Congress. Which is why we may not see any reforms. Not anytime soon, in spite of the Times' occasional focus on the pharmaceutical iceberg.
Healthcare system, in general, is under attack from the inside
The Washington Post has an article in its Sunday edition which examines the disgust expressed by many leaders in the healthcare community with our system.
"Talk to the chief executives of America's preeminent health-care institutions, and you might be surprised by what you hear: When it comes to medical care, the United States isn't getting its money's worth. Not even close.
"'We're not getting what we pay for,' says Denis Cortese, president and chief executive of the Mayo Clinic. 'It's just that simple.'
"'Our health-care system is fraught with waste,' says Gary Kaplan, chairman of Seattle's cutting-edge Virginia Mason Medical Center. As much as half of the $2.3 trillion spent today does nothing to improve health, he says.
"Not only is American health care inefficient and wasteful, says Kaiser Permanente chief executive George Halvorson, much of it is dangerous."