Don't Act So Surprised

On the verge of the September 11th anniversary, where the horrible tragedy of lives lost will be remembered, our country faces many other issues, such as multi-billion dollar corporate giants falling because of "bad accounting". Some of these no-longer-solvent companies even had Major League ball parks named after them, which would be even more embarrassing if it weren't for the press that the whiny players are getting for threatening to go on strike, vacate the stadiums and abandon the fans. There's also the total uncertainty of Wall Street and the unfathomable amount of many Americans' retirement money that is being lost. Speaking of retirement, one of the main political issues, besides terrorism and national security, is the exponential rise in prescription drug costs that our nation's elderly cannot afford. It's at least important enough for the Governor of Florida to go head-to-head with the former Attorney General.
In the midst of all this uncertainty and turmoil, there is a group of manufacturers that is flourishing, pharmaceutical companies. The gigantic drug-making firms have received little scrutiny publicly and have gone virtually unscathed as there has been more than a 17% increase in prescription drug sales for the last four years in a row, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. This past year yielded an astounding $22.5 billion increase in total sales and an additional 200 million retail prescriptions filled over the previous year.
Multiple price increases throughout the year contributed heavily to the sums of profit, but the number of prescriptions also suggests something else. Is the increase in planetary population directly proportional to the number of new prescriptions? Are more people getting hurt or sick than ever before? Coincidental with the sales spike was the advent of prescription drug advertising on television several years ago. The fact is that the major pharmaceutical manufacturers spend far more on advertising than they do on research and development. On top of that, as soon as a couple niche drugs sales slipped, out came news that they also are supposed to help with some other ailment or malady, such as male arousal medication helping your heart too, or something to that effect.
The reason for this article is to serve as a sort of wake-up call. Percentages of people addicted to prescription drugs seeking treatment have increased significantly in the past few years, particularly with synthetic opiates. Oxycontin(r) sales, for example, jumped by 41% and it's common for some heroin addicts to get turned on to opiates because of this highly addictive controlled substance. According to one former addict from Pennsylvania, "My grandmother was prescribed Oxy[contin] as a painkiller and she became addicted, so she always had plenty of it in her house. My friends and I used to take some of her pills ourselves. Within two months," recalls the 22 year-old girl, "I was snorting heroin." Unfortunately, given the history of drugs, this isn't uncommon. After all, illicit drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and LSD were all legal at some point too before finally being recognized as harmful and toxic substances. This has been part of the battle that those of us in the substance abuse treatment and prevention field have worked at cleaning up for a long time.
Do the very few drugs produced by these companies that are actually lifesaving in emergency situations provide a "Proceed directly to GO and receive $200" card? Is it the millions of dollars given to political parties for elections by these companies? I believe that the average person, especially an American, can put two and two together and see that we are getting used like disposable pawns in a high dollar game of chess. Is there an end in sight? If we don't wake up and look at what's happening, who will? The next time you see a commercial for the latest fad drug or pay an outrageous sum of money for your prescription, don't act so surprised.

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