These are the people we’re trusting with our health?

The entrance to Pfizer in Maryland.
“Pfizer Sign II” by Montgomery County Planning Commission is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Somehow, it seems totally wrong that the companies we trust with our health are driven by their need to show profits. All but one of the major pharmaceutical companies are owned by shareholders who want to receive dividends. The companies’ reputations rise and fall by their profitability. Right away, without any further examination, this skews the values of a company.

But go to ANY of their websites and you will see flowery language claiming that they work diligently on behalf of all the individuals who use their products. It’s so easy to see the lies behind these statements. I’m going to point out a few examples but making a thorough examination of this subject would take me days.

Pfizer: Right now, millions of people are trusting Pfizer COVID vaccines. But in 2009, Pfizer settled a civil and criminal case with the Department of Justice for $2.3 billion. At that time, it was the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice. The DOJ said, “Pfizer promoted the sale of Bextra for several uses and dosages that the FDA specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns.” Bextra was an anti-inflammatory drug that was pulled from the market in 2005.

It amazes me, actually, that these companies can pay a fine for a criminal charge and no one goes to jail. In this case, there were 13 million prescriptions written for Bextra in 2004 alone. The drug was approved by the FDA in late 2001 so Pfizer profited from its sales for at least three years before it was pulled from the market by the FDA for heart, stomach and skin problems.

Here’s one of the adverse side effects that got this drug pulled: Toxic epidermal necrolysis is a life-threatening skin disorder characterized by a blistering and peeling of the skin.

Here’s another: Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. It’s usually a reaction to medication that starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful rash that spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of affected skin dies, sheds and begins to heal after several days.

But despite this severe suffering, no one went to jail.

Johnson & Johnson: These are the baby powder people, right? Baby shampoo, baby oil, lotion and so on. These are also the people who ran an opium poppy farming and processing operation in Tasmania that supplied most of the world’s legal opium for painkillers. They raked in vast profits for a couple of decades. When thousands of lawsuits began being filed against painkiller manufacturers, they divested themselves of this company, Tasmanian Alkaloids, a typical tactic these companies use when their products become troublesome.

At the same time, this company is dealing with 38,000 lawsuits filed against them as a result of the asbestos found in their baby powder. It’s claimed that this asbestos resulted in thousands of cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Just yesterday, a judge in North Carolina ruled that these lawsuits should be paused for 60 days and that the cases should be heard in New Jersey, where the company is headquartered. According to NPR, “This is a major setback for J&J,” said Adam Levitin, a bankruptcy expert at Georgetown University. Any setback for J&J makes me happy, frankly.

J&J had already paid a $2.2 billion fine to settle criminal and civil charges in 2013. “The company was found guilty of off-label marketing of prescription drugs, including anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega and heart failure drug Natrecor. It was charged with offering payments to healthcare providers for their unlawful marketing targeting elderly patients with dementia.

Of course, Johnson & Johnson makes a COVID vaccine too.

GlaxoSmithKline: In 2012, they agreed to pay $3 billion for false claims or failure to report safety information about Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia. Specifically, they were charged with:

  • Promoting Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, and Zofran for off-label and non-covered uses, in addition to paying kickbacks to physicians for prescribing those drugs.
  • Giving kickbacks to physicians for prescribing Imitrex, Lotronex, Flovent, and Valtrex.
  • Making false and misleading statements about Avandia’s safety.
  • False reporting to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program.

If you or your child have ever taken Augmentin (amoxicillin), Otosporin ear drops, or Ventolin for asthma, then you’ve taken a GSK drug. They also make several drugs for depression and erectile dysfunction. They also market Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant, as a drug to help people stop smoking.

GSK does not make a COVID vaccine.

That’s all I have time for at the moment but I assure you, it’s pathetically easy to find huge settlements by these pharmaceutical companies. And nothing ever happens to them of any significance. They pay their fines (which they calculated into the cost of their drugs in the first place) and continue doing business.

Any consumer, any doctor, should look at these companies with a very critical eye. If they recommend a drug for a particular condition, that’s a sign to me that I should back up and do my own research. Too many doctors allow themselves to be influenced by pharmaceutical reps instead of doing their own study. Our current opioid catastrophe is proof of the undue influence of pharmaceutical reps over medical doctors.

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