PHARMACEUTICALS AS A PUBLIC UTILITY UNIT I: BLOOD MONEY
“Eleanor wore a pearl necklace and diamonds in her hair, gifts from Franklin’s rich Delano relatives. Even though Franklin had never made much money himself, Teddy knew that he would be able to care for his new wife: FDR was heir to the huge Delano opium fortune. Franklin’s grandfather Warren Delano had for years skulked around the [China’s] Pearl River Delta dealing drugs.”
“The Delanos were not alone. Many of New England’s great families made their fortunes dealing drugs in China. The Cabot family of Boston endowed Harvard with opium money, while Yale’s famous Skull and Bones society was funded by the biggest American opium dealers of them all – the Russell family. The most famous landmark on the Columbia University campus is the Low Memorial Library, which honors Abiel Low, a New York boy who made it big in the Pearl River Delta and bankrolled the first cable across the Atlantic. Princeton’s first big benefactor, John Green, sold opium in the Pearl River Delta with Warren Delano.
The list goes on and on: Boston’s John Murray Forbes’s opium profits financed the career of transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and bankrolled the Bell Telephone Company. Thomas Perkins founded America’s first commercial railroad and funded the Boston Athenaeum. These wealthy and powerful drug dealing families combined to create dynasties.” – Author James Bradley in his book The Imperial Cruise
The reader will please forgive the extended quotation above, but it sets the context. It helps us understand the types of individuals we are dealing with at the top of both the illegal and legal drug industries.
The famous New Englanders above were to China what the Mexican drug lords, the El Chapos, are to the United States today – ruthless, conscienceless predators. It is unknown how many hundreds of thousands of Chinese people died to make the New England families the “billionaires” of their day, but it is well known the average life expectancy of U.S. citizens is currently going down in part because of the thousands upon thousands of deaths resulting from the illegal drugs currently entering our nation. We could once again sanitize all of this – today’s El Chapos will no doubt eventually have their names on famous buildings in Mexico or Central or South America, and their heirs will be elite members of high society – or we could simply call it what it has always been – – – murder for money.
But let us move on to the “legal” drug trade, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. We’ll start with Purdue Pharmacy, the opioid drug OxyContin, and the billionaire Sackler family. In a report by National Public Radio (NPR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths linked to prescription opioids have killed more than 218,000 Americans. Purdue Pharmacy’s expertly marketed prescription pain killer, OxyContin, was a major driver of this destruction. The sale of this drug by Purdue’s owners, the Sackler’s, enabled them to vastly increase the size of their already substantial fortune.
The deceptive marketing of opioids to doctors, clinics, and hospitals by Purdue and the Sackler family began well over 20 years ago. The addiction crisis arose in the late 1990’s. Yet the Sackler’s continued pushing these drugs for another two decades and now face billions of dollars in fines for their ruthless, conscienceless predation. But the family has already offshored at least a billion dollars to protect their fortune from litigation and, since they have long been members of America’s wealthiest elite and can afford the finest lawyers, it is highly unlikely the Sackler’s will face personal criminal charges for the destruction and death they have wreaked upon thousands. When you are a lowly drug dealer on the street and someone dies because of your profit-making, you are guilty of murder. But when you are philanthropic endower of famous universities, museums and art galleries, murder isn’t really murder.
But there is another way in which ruthless, conscienceless predators in the pharmaceutical industry destroy the lives of others. People die from a lack of prescription drugs just as easily as from addiction.
“When Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and James Collip filed for a U.S. patent on insulin in 1923 and sold it to the University of Toronto for $1 each, they did it because, as Best once said, “insulin belongs to the world.”
They also believed that securing the patent was a form of publication, and wrote to the university president, “When the details of the method of preparation are published anyone would be free to prepare the extract, but no one could secure a profitable monopoly.”
Sadly, they were mistaken.
Today, three companies — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk (NVO), and Sanofi (SNY) Aventis — control virtually the entire global market for insulin. This oligopoly, which may have colluded to fix insulin prices, charges exorbitant amounts for a medicine that people with type 1 diabetes cannot live without. Since the 1990s, they have raised the price of insulin more than 1,200%.
In the past few years we’ve learned about the tragic and preventable deaths of 20-somethings who simply couldn’t afford their insulin, even with insurance. Diabetes-related complications like amputations are on the rise again after decades of decline, and many people who depend on insulin to survive are sacrificing their rent, their cars, and their dignity just to get by.
It’s an unconscionable evolution for a drug developed almost a century ago in a public lab, in the public interest. How did it come to this?” – – STAT
Need one say more? Murder for money is murder for money.
Unit II will discuss: Who Really Funds Research and Development?