This election is about much more than Democrats or Republicans, higher or lower taxes, or the war in Iraq. It is about the survival of millions of people around the globe. And if candidates supported by the drug industry prevail, we may become participants in a silent genocide.
A few years ago I attended a closed meeting with consultants for Ernst & Young. They told the gathered drug executives that the pharma industry was in trouble. Ernst & Young had added together the sales forecasts the industry had given to Wall Street and they told us, “If you are going to meet those numbers, you need twice as many drugs as you have in your pipeline. Your stock is going to fall off a cliff during the next ten years.”
Today, that prediction has come true. Drug company stocks have tumbled. The biggest drug company, Pfizer, has lost 40% of its value in the last five years.
The only temporary relief has been the Medicare prescription benefit. According to the New York Times, this program has raised profits for drug makers both by increasing the prices they receive and by encouraging beneficiaries to fill prescriptions they might otherwise have been unable to afford.
Democrats claim the government could save as much as $190 billion over the next 10 years if the Medicare program was allowed to negotiate prices directly with drug manufacturers.
But losing the election to Democrats isn’t the only threat looming on the horizon for the drug industry. IMS Health, an industry research firm, estimates prescription drugs worth $121.5 billion will come off patent between 2006 and 2011. That’s half of U.S. drug sales.
But the drug company CEO’s have a plan to fix all these problems. Just like a bad student might contemplate cheating, the drug industry plans on big scale cheating.
Number one on the cheat sheet is to stop generics from coming onto the market, in the U.S and overseas. One such failed attempt recently resulted in the ouster of Peter Dolan, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s former CEO. This sordid affair also led to the FBI searching his office. But it wasn’t the FBI the board was disturbed about when they fired Mr. Dolan. They were upset about the fact that Mr. Dolan failed to buy off the generic drug maker, and messed up so badly that the generic company was able to temporarily flood the U.S. market with the cheap generic drug he’d tried to stop.
According to the Washington Post, “The brand-name drug industry is aggressively working to keep blockbuster drugs widely used by the elderly from being sold in cheaper generic versions when their patents expire.”
Pfizer’s recently ousted CEO, Dr. Hank McKinnell, in his book “A Call to Action” is very clear on the drug industry’s objective: He calls for a doubling of drug patent life [page 185] which would result in a drastic reduction of new, low-priced generic drugs.
And what should be our concern is that these dirty deals aren’t just taking place in the U.S. The drug industry is also using the current administration to do their bidding and deny affordable drugs to the poorest countries in the world.
According to the International Herald Tribune, the White House is pushing bilateral and regional trade agreements in which poor countries are forced to enact “superpatents’ that prolong U.S. drug makers’ monopolies and limit the circumstances under which the patents can be broken.
Pedro Chequer, the head of Brazil’s national AIDS program has said: “If you prevent countries from using generic drugs, you are creating a concrete obstacle to providing access to drugs. You are promoting genocide, because you’re killing people.”
The trade deals are often negotiated in secret and attract little notice. But they have already been signed with poor countries overwhelmed by AIDS, among them six in Central America. And negotiations have started with several nations that also are overwhelmed by the AIDS virus, from Thailand to five southern African countries, including South Africa and Botswana.
When a life-saving industry cheats, people die. When the White House participates in these dirty deals, the result may be genocide.
Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Vice President of Pfizer. He became well known in 2004 when he emerged as the first drug company executive to speak out in favor of reimportation of drugs. He is the author of “The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.” See: http://the-whistleblower-by-peter-rost.blogspot.com/