Big Pharma: Not As Bad As You Think…

Today I appeared on the Sheer Balance internet radio program (podcast).  It was a lot of fun.  Sheer Balance is the brainchild of Brett Blumenthal.  She’s launched the site dedicated to the balance of fitness, nutrition and health and I urge you to check it out (especially all the yogaphiles).

The topic was health care, and health care reform, and I appeared with two physicians:  Dr. Desmond Ebanks, MD Founder of Alternity Healthcare and Georgianna Donadio, PhD, Founder and Director of the National Institute of Whole Health.  We had a great conversation.

At one point, we talked about the costs of health care reform, and who was going to pay.  It got pretty animated and I found myself in the somewhat unusual position of defending pharmaceutical companies and PhRMA.

Dr. Donadio seemed suprised to learn that pharmaceutical companies have agreed to spend $80 billion to help pay for health care reform.  I agreed with her that they stood to make a lot of money in the process.  But if that meant more patients could get more medicine, I say “Go For It!”  Millions of people who need it aren’t getting it.

We all unfortunately agreed that tomorrow’s “Big Health Care Summit” is pretty much a waste of time.  Republicans have been intransigent all year long and they’ve just picked off Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.  You tell me they’re wiling to compromise now???

The real problem is that Democrats aren’t even together as a party on health care reform.  If they were, then the House Democrats (who hold a 75-seat majority) would pass the Senate bill tomorrow and President Obama  would sign it next week.  Going through reconiliation is a bad strategy.  Trying to blaming the Republicans for your own shortcomings is even worse.

Then I defended pharmaceutical company advertising.  It was charged that advertising makes people take medicine they don’t really need.  “Why is it bad when someone is educated through advertising?” I countered.    Aren’t we TRYING to educate people about disease and prevention?  I’d love to have a $50 million ad campaign promoting my cause, and so would many others.  No one else has that kind of money.

Am I turning into a Republican?  Defending drug companies and castigating Democrats.  Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?


2 Responses

  1. Hi Joe! It was fantastic having you three on the show yesterday and it is interesting that Pharma became a part of the discussion. I’ve always had a very negative view of Pharma…they push pills. Granted, if you are sick…and you NEED medication, we can’t be more thankful than to have them in our corner and at our disposal. But, for every life saved, another person is popping a pill they don’t need. The balance is out of whack…and I’m not sure how we deal with it. Our society much rather a pill fix our problems than have to work hard to make the problem go away naturally. Look at Diet Pills…Depression Pills…and even…dare I say it…Cholesterol Pills. It is a toughy…but yes, if big Pharma wants to try to help health care become a better industry, then I say hip hip hooray…

    NOW, can we get McDonald’s and the Corn Refiners on the bandwagon? Hmm…another show…another time…

    Thanks again!

    • Brett, I largely agree with what you’re saying. That’s why I found it ironic to be defending the drug companies on the program. But I have to tell you that the only people who’ve heard of one disease I’m working on – peripheral artery disease – are those who have seen the TV ads. PAD is clogging of the leg arteries (just like chest arteries) and people who have it are at much higher risk of heart attack, stroke and death. I agree that the best way to prevent something like PAD is through better nutrition, exercise, etc. But right now there are millions of Americans who have PAD and don’t know it, and who need medication to help treat it. If the drug companies raise awareness about the disease, and make money in the process, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Thanks again for having me on and please stay in touch.

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