Big Pharma and big problems

Recently I was having lunch with my mom after one of her doctor’s appointments and like always she was consulting with me. Now just so you know off the top – I am not a doctor. I am one of those people with years of experience in pharmacies, health food stores, medical research and clinical diagnostics but I am no doctor. I vacillate between recognition of their years of intensive study and therefore remarkable knowledge of the body and their easily bought (no, too harsh), influenced choices when it comes to prescriptives.

Now back to my mom. She’s got a whole host of problems which I won’t get into but in addition to her previous drug regimen she now needs an additional drug for cholesterol and a different blood pressure drug. The doctor was actually paying attention that day (I mean this literally – she lost nearly 50 pounds which was more than 20% of her body weight and he didn’t notice before). So, he went to their stores and brought out a bunch of samples. One of them was a new drug and he explained that it wasn’t available as a generic. And a second one was an old drug.

This all confused my mom and maybe this is weird to you too. Drug companies pay millions to develop new drugs. For that money, they’ve got the FDA in their pockets such that there will be patent protection for the production of the drug for anywhere from 10 to 20 years. So no generics can be legally made and sold. After I related this to mom, I said that that was why he had mentioned the ‘new’ drug and was concerned about her being able to afford it.

With regards to the old drug – I told her that most doctors are ‘encouraged’ to promote new drugs so that big Pharma can make money. Old drugs make them nothing. And if you’ve seen The Fugitive you’ll remember that doctors are ‘courted’ by drug companies. They sponsor

conferences and meetings all over the world to not only help the dissemination of medical information but also as self-promotion. The kind of Old Boys’ Club mentality that it would be great to eliminate but given the state of politics (and especially special interest’s groups hold on political cojones) is unlikely to happen any time soon.

And speaking of the negatives of Big Pharma, I was recently asked about vaccinations with respect to my own kiddos. The old argument of vaccines causing autism came up and I had to remind the person I was speaking to that we (in Canada) do not get the same vaccine formulations that other countries do. Our regulations are different and an across the board comparison is not accurate. That stated though, another issue I have with big Pharma is how they have vaccination drives for batches of vaccine that are about to expire. The next time you see a push for a vaccine that should have been delivered en masse already (like an influenza vaccine push after January) it may be due to someone noticing that huge numbers of units are going to be thrown out if they don’t get out the door.

This isn’t to say that vaccine campaigns are always suspect. The recent ones for Mumps Measles Rubella and Varicella or Diptheria, Pertussis (acellular, a) and Tetanus are valid and should be seriously considered by all parents. It used to be that a child could not attend any public school until all vaccinations were up to date. Now things are definitely different. With the recent decline in compliance, herd immunity is down and most all of these are making comebacks in the developed world.

In order: Measles – identified by cough, runny nose and red eyes – fever in excess of 39C/102F, rash and sometimes spots inside the mouth. Complicated by diarrhea, pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling in the brain), corneal ulceration/ scarring which would lead to vision problems to blindness. Oh yeah and a fever of 40C can mess up the brain forever.

Mumps – noticeable and painful swelling of the parotid (salivary glands) and testes (also painful for adolescents or adult males that can in rare cases lead to infertility), fever and headache.
Both have recently been enormous problems in the western world with outbreaks dominating diagnostics in many countries.

Rubella – a personal favorite of mine because a schoolmate had it 6 times in 2 years. (And to this day she’s mad at me for giving her scarlet fever. sheesh.) Also has a rash, swollen glands, joint pain, headache and conjunctivitis. Mostly a danger to pregnant women as it causes spontaneous abortion and congenital rubella syndrome (heart, brain, eye and ear defects which are permanent, low birth weight, prematurity, anaemia, hepatitis, “blueberry muffin skin lesions” and low platelet levels or thrombocytopenia which causes wound healing problems.)

Varicella – perhaps better known as herpes / chicken pox / shingles. The pic above is shingles because just about everyone knows what Chicken Pox looks like. They’re vaccinating for this because of the increased risk for serious Staph and Strep infections of the lesions.
To note in the shingles pic – the rash is only on half of the body. Usually front and back and there can be limb involvement. This rash is painful in 80-odd% of cases. Really Painful.

Diptheria is one I won’t forget seeing as my mom had it as a small child. It causes sore throat (inflamed neck = bull neck), usually low but in rarer cases high fever, adherent pseudomembrane which may require medical intervention to maintain breathing and can lead to heart problems and death. (My mom was sent home to die 3 times.)

Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough. This one is quite common in the north of Canada and causes a type of cough that is so persistent that the person doesn’t get much time to breathe – hence the whoop. Technically called a paroxysmal cough. It is so severe that it can cause eye hemorrhages, rib fractures, incontinence, hernia, fainting, inspiration of vomitting and even vertebral artery dissection. If that didn’t spell it out – hey, it’s serious!

Tetanus. This one got some press recently when Selma Hayek teemed up with Pampers to distribute vaccines to the third world. This bacteria is of the same parent group that includes botulism (yes, botox), gangrene and an overwhelming intestinal infection known as C.diff. Tetanus causes the muscles of the body to contract (opposite of botulism). It’s painful – very painful. Think of a muscle spasm that you may have had in your leg or back and multiply it by all the voluntary muscles of the body. In the industrialized world the fatality rate is about 11% but elsewhere it’s more like 50-75%. High fevers, sweating, increased heart rate and blood pressure go with it – but that’s no surprise given the muscle contractions. Lockjaw is also a common first sign.

So vaccines in general good.
Big Pharma not always good. I think of them like any big business of today (or say the Catholic Church of the dark ages) with so much power – it’s easy to be corrupted. And if a church can justify killing thousands if not millions what can a corporation justify doing?

Brought to you by You Get Well Soon


About YouGetWellSoon

I'm a Calgary mom who left a life of research and teaching to stay at home and raise my children. I'm also a business owner: YouGetWellSoon.
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