Last fall a bombshell of negative press exploded on the pharmaceutical world, as Big Pharma’s relentless pursuit of higher profits made headlines throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. The greedy poster boy for this media coverage was a 32-year old hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical CEO named Martin Shkreli.
Shkreli took over Turing Pharmaceuticals and immediately hiked the price of a drug called Daraprim (pyrimethamine) from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. That’s an increase of 5,555%.
Daraprim has been around since 1953, is generically available, and is used mainly in combination with other anti-infective agents to treat an uncommon infection known as toxoplasmosis in patients with HIV, cancer, or patients who are otherwise immunocompromised. It works great, has few side effects, and is the primary treatment of choice amongst the small handful of drugs used to treat this life-threatening infection. Make Daraprim inaccessible to patients and physicians due to financial constraints and you literally cost people their lives.
This apparently didn’t concern the rich, young, powerful CEO Shkreli as he bragged about his decision on social media. Then Shkreli was arrested by the U.S. government for securities fraud, but that didn’t change his attitude when he was called before Congress to have a conversation on drug pricing. His refusal to answer any questions while he had a smirk on his face the whole time can be found here.
The whole situation with Daraprim brings to light a bigger problem in our healthcare system. This problem has to do with the skyrocketing prices of drugs by pharmaceutical companies who seem to care more about their profits than they do about their customers. It might be easy to point fingers and blame the multi-billion dollar drug companies for this, but we, the healthcare consumer, are the one’s at fault in my opinion. Allow me to explain…
Creating Huge Demands for Prescription Drugs
Like any other industry in America, the healthcare industry functions on the simple premises of supply and demand. Consumers create a demand for a product or service, businesses realize this, and then industry finds a way to supply the product or service at a cost that the market will bear. The same goes for the prescription drug industry.
You’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “Yeah, but I didn’t choose to get sick. It’s not my fault I have ___________ and have to take a handful of pills for the rest of my life.”
Not so fast.
While some illnesses are certainly unavoidable no matter how well we take care of ourselves, most chronic illnesses are not. The vast majority of what Americans (and healthcare consumers in other Western countries) suffer from are preventable. This fact is clearly stated in a 2014 article in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet:1
“In the USA, chronic diseases are the main causes of poor health, disability, and death, and account for most of health-care expenditures. The chronic disease burden in the USA largely results from a short list of risk factors–including tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity (both strongly associated with obesity), excessive alcohol consumption, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and hyperlipidaemia–that can be effectively addressed for individuals and populations.”
Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and drinking alcohol are at the very root of our chronic disease epidemic. In essence, we Americans are driving up the prices of drugs because we are “choosing” to be chronically sick by making poor choices when it comes to our health. This might sound harsh, but it’s true. Many of us make excuses as to why we don’t exercise or eat healthy or why it’s too hard to quit smoking or avoid the bottle. But those excuses are exactly why we are in such poor health. We’ve done it to ourselves.
The good news in all of this is we have control over the short list of factors responsible for the majority of chronic illnesses mentioned in The Lancet. What we eat, whether or not we smoke or drink, and how active we stay is up to each one of us individually; and so follows our health.
This can all translate into time, energy, and money put back into our pockets for our own benefit if we make wise, consistent choices to get healthy and stay healthy. It all comes down to adopting these four simple habits:
- Adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet. Avoid animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) and processed foods
- Exercise at least 150 minutes per week (i.e. 30 minutes/day for 5 days/week)
- Stop smoking or don’t start in the first place
- Avoid alcohol
By making these four commitments in our everyday lives we can create a nation full of healthy people, one which rarely needs medical attention or requires the use of pharmaceutical drugs to make it through another day. Modern medicine and pharmaceutical drugs have a time and a place, but preventable chronic diseases should not be one of them. It’s a poor and inefficient way to approach these illnesses.
Health is not something served on a silver platter. You aren’t automatically privileged with good health just because you wake up each day. You have to earn it, just like anything else in life that’s worthwhile. And while it might seem like you have to climb mountains to lead a healthy lifestyle, I can guarantee you this – It beats the hell out of letting a greedy, for-profit industry drag you through the mud as you try year after year, decade after decade to find answers to your ill.
Remember, it all comes down to supply and demand. You create the demand, industry responds and creates the supply (and the price tag that comes with it). If you don’t like this then it’s time to look in the mirror and figure out what you can do to change.
As mentioned earlier, many of the reasons for your ill health are most likely due to the choices your making in life. It’s time to be your own hero, make yourself proud, and start leading the life that you know you’re capable of. Others will likely follow as they see your positive progress. And maybe someday, we, the healthcare consumer, will take back control of an industry which has gone awry and seems to have forgotten who put them in the lucrative position they are in in the first place.
I’ll leave you with a list of medications that have recently seen staggering price increases over the last few years. Most, but not all, of these medications are typically used to treat preventable chronic diseases. This trend will likely continue unless America changes the way we think, act, and live.
Out-of-Control, Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices
– Used to treat asthma and other lung diseases
– Old price: $15 per inhaler
– New price: $70 per inhaler
– Price increase: 467%
– Used to treat gout
– Old price: $0.10 per tablet
– New price: $7.50 per tablet
– Price increase: 7,500%
– Used to treat infections
– Old price: $0.06 per tablet
– New price: $3.65 per tablet
– Price increase: 6,083%
– Used to treat heart failure
– Old price: $0.11 per tablet
– New price: $1.10 per tablet
– Price increase: 1,000%
– Used to treat heart condition called bradycardia
– Old price: $215 per vial
– New price: $1,346 per vial
– Price increase: 626%
– Used to treat infections
– Old price: $0.06 per tablet
– New price: $4.60 per tablet
– Price increase: 7,667%
– Used to treat depression and many other conditions
– Old price: $0.04 per tablet
– New price: $1.03 per tablet
– Price increase: 2,575%
– Used to treat high blood pressure
– Old price: $0.11
– New price: $0.91
– Price increase: 827%
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Check out my book, The Empty Medicine Cabinet, to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today’s common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on food versus medication in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!
Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net
1 Bauer UE, Briss PA, Goodman RA, et al. Prevention of chronic disease in the 21st century: elimination of the leading preventable causes of premature death and disability in the USA. Lancet. 2014 Jul 5;384(9937):45-52.