Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.
Prescribed pain by corporate America
Greed has become a foundational structure of the US economy - exemplified by the pharmaceutical industry.
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2011 08:43
"There is nowhere this greed is more pervasive than among those companies responsible for the health of roughly 300 million of Americans - Big Pharma" [AP]

During the ultimate scene of betrayal in the movie Wall Street, a young stockbroker named Bud Fox learns that his idol, the golden-calf worshipping Gordon Gekko, has not only lied to him but left his father’s company exposed to the whims and hunger of the wolves of Wall Street. In a climactic moment, Fox asks Gekko, “how much is enough? How many yachts can you water ski behind?”

Even though this film was mid-1980s fare, one can once again repeat that old refrain, the more things change the more they stay the same. Perhaps not for the actor who played Bud Fox, Charlie Sheen, who should share Natalie Portman’s Oscar for real-time transformation into the Black Swan.

But for the rest of us, who have watched as greed has become the foundational structure upon which much of our modern economy is built, it is often difficult to see how we might close the Pandora’s Box and return to saner times. You know, back when being Donald Trump wasn’t considered an asset in a hair-club-for-men commercial, much less a race to be President of the United States.

There is nowhere this greed is more pervasive than among those companies responsible for the health of roughly 300 million of Americans - Big Pharma. You know, the guys who got a better sweetheart deal from George Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefit than Ana Nicole Smith did from that old rich guy.

Later, re-importation from Canada and bulk negotiation for Medicare prescription drugs were written out of any Obama healthcare plan, even though each was at the heart of Democratic Party campaign promises in 2006 and 2008.

Maybe money can not buy you love - but the halls of Congress have a more Heidi-Fleiss-kind-of ethic to them.

Steve Lendman of RINF.com, in providing a summary of David Sirota’s bestselling book, Hostile Takeover, clarifies:

This industry is one of the most profitable in the country making about 18 cents profit on every dollar of sales; it is aided by government using our tax dollars to fund about one third of all research on new drugs the industry gets at no charge; the industry spends about twice as much on advertising, promotion and administrative costs as they do on R & D to develop new drugs; the prices charged for prescription drugs in the US are inordinately high compared to the rest of the world and are rising at about four times the rate of inflation; these rising costs plus those for most all health services are rising so fast, companies are forcing their employees to pay a greater share of them or are reducing overall health care benefits.

Ever feel like you are the bank and they are Dillinger? If not, you probably should.

I can attest to their greed personally, from working with preeminent plaintiff’s lawyer Ed Blizzard, who has challenged the right of pharmaceutical companies to poison Americans, like it is part of their business model. It is Blizzard who made Vioxx drug-maker Merck pay dearly - to the tune of $4.85 billion - for the scores of Americans who lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, because Vioxx promised to help with arthritis and instead delivered sudden cardiac arrest.

Now, because a lack of any regulation, Americans are being poisoned by hip implants created by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Depuy Orthopaedics Inc., that are not only not tracked by any regulated registry, but in many cases were never even tested before being put into people’s bodies - so the inside of victims hips could come to resemble a post-Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico.

You can tell they’re confident that their 93,000 recalls, which they had been warned about as early as 2008, but did not do anything to address until 2010, aren’t proof of any wrongdoing. That is probably why Depuy’s President, David Floyd, just resigned.

Even worse, the chromium poisoning that is destroying victims’ bone and muscle is nothing new, in fact, you may remember a town of people who got cancer due to its ill effects from the movie Erin Brockovich. Now, they have Depuy and Johnson & Johnson to thank for this honor.

So one understands we are talking about real people here, one of Blizzard’s clients, 58 year-old construction worker Larry Barnett of Modesto, Illinois, “suffered debilitating pain - he had trouble even walking or standing after receiving the part” and now is “at much greater risk for cancer.” Barnett told reporter Mike Cronin of The Daily, that Depuy’s ASR hip replacement has "screwed up my life for three years." This man was a hard-working construction worker, who “only wants to get back to work".

One wonders if any pharmaceutical company had to give up income for three years, which they would do first - hand off the bill to American taxpayers or make Canada accept re-importation of drugs from the United States for 150 per cent of the price.

As Blizzard has said, “nobody signed up for an oil spill in their body.” They did not sign up for cancer either.

So let me ask the question this time, as Sheen is a bit preoccupied with other matters: When is enough, enough?

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.