More Pharmaceutical Company Rip-Offs

Next time your physician sends you to the pharmacist with a prescription, don't assume that the drug you need will be available in a generic brand just because it has been on the market for awhile. What you pay for your health care is of no concern to your representative but what the drug companies pay them most assuredly is.

First case in point? During the last two years, Searle & Co. and its parent, Monsanto, gave $127,875 to individual legislators and over $129,000 in "soft" money to the parties, with the vast majority going to the Republicans. In the spring of 1996, Searle's sycophants in Congress hid an amendment in a budget bill that extended Searle's patent on the anti-inflammatory drug Daypro. The approximately $500,000 that Searle & Co. paid in bribing the parties and representatives will show an enormous profit as Daypro brings the drug giant $280 million in yearly sales.

For an even more outrageous example of the abuse you suffer at the hands of your government and the drug companies, try to fathom the following:

In 1994, White House and Congressional staffers, while working together, mistakenly failed to include a technical provision during the creation of the "fast track" General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This oversight extended patents on 109 drugs of American manufacture and kept any generic options from becoming available while guaranteeing profits to the drug manufacturers of over $6 billion dollars. One corporation, Glaxo Wellcome, was guaranteed over $2 billion for its ulcer drug Zantac.

Once the error was detected, though, a group of mostly Democratic senators attempted to pass legislation that would have reinserted the missing clause in the treaty. Of course, since this was now a new and profitable form of Corporate Welfare, even if by omission, the pharmaceutical companies decided that these indecent and accidental profits were now rightfully theirs. A large group of mostly Republican senators not only supported the industry's absurd arguments but fashioned a position that, somehow, changing this miniscule clause would open the door to massive cheating by every other signature nation (without quite explaining how that might occur) and eventually blocked all efforts to put right this blunder.

Now, is it just me or is it is difficult to believe that the $100,000 that Glaxo Wellcome donated to the Republican National Committee the very day following the Senate vote to preclude any change in the treaty was not an outright payment for services rendered? In fact, Glaxo Wellcome eventually contributed a total of $487,000 to the Republican National Committee while proclaiming that the Republican controlled Senate only "voted on the merits". Yeah, right!

As I reported in a column last year, Congress, sadly, acts like the slave of any corporation that can afford to buy them and the House's underhanded attempt to destroy the FDA in the 1996 session was an excellent example of their fire sale mentality. The pharmaceutical companies were sick and tired of being legally required to produce safe and effective products and they began spending whatever was necessary to put an end to that abuse. The House responded with amazing vigor. They quickly and quietly enacted legislation to protect the poor, mistreated industry by privatizing the FDA and allowing the industry to create its own oversight system composed entirely of pharmaceutical executives. Thankfully for every American consumer, the action was blasted and halted by the White House, the media and nearly every non-conservative consumer protection group in the nation (including, I proudly remind you, little old me).

The entire system, which most assuredly includes both parties, is, obviously, completely out of our control. Money is absolutely the only fascination of the elected officials in this nation. Until voters learn to speak up loudly and firmly both during elections and, more importantly, between these cycles, nothing will change but the criminals. You have the means to complain by writing or calling or starting petitions. If enough voters get involved and active then this climate of greed will wither and, once these gluttonous officials know their every action is being watched, they will have no option but to become either honest or unemployed. Yeah, right!

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