Thank you for signing up!
Sickness is Profitable
Republished from ThriveMovement.com with permission from Foster Gamble. Watch a FREE live screening event of Foster Gamble's thought-provoking documentary Thrive, exclusively on GaiamTV.com April 5-18.
Our health care system has a fundamental flaw: More money is made when people are sick rather than healthy. Pharmaceuticals profit when they sell more drugs, and doctors make more money when they see more patients.
How has this influenced the health care system we have today?
- The health care industry profits more from sickness than from health. Pharmaceuticals are in the business of selling drugs. The more they can manage — rather than cure — disease, the more money they can make.
- Mainstream medical education emphasizes drug research and treatment. M.D.s can only get degrees through universities that have been accredited by the AMA. The AMA sets the standards for medical education, which heavily emphasizes drug-based treatment and research.
- Only patentable cures are of interest to drug companies. Natural remedies — such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, herbal supplements and remedies and homeopathy (which have all proven to improve health) — cannot be patented and therefore are of little interest to drug companies. As a result, many people are unaware of these natural, viable, cheaper health solutions, and doctors are not adequately informed about them either. Health insurance companies also do not cover many of these natural solutions, so patients seek out mainstream treatments in order to save money.
What’s wrong with the pharmaceutical industry?
- Pharmaceuticals have giant lobbying teams. Pharmaceuticals were the largest lobby in Washington in 2007, spending more than $168 million.
- Pharmaceuticals fund political campaigns. From 1997-2005, the pharmaceutical and health products industry gave almost $150 million in campaign contributions.
- Pharmaceuticals fund research and education. The drug industry has increased spending on doctor education from $302 million in 1998 to $1.2 billion in 2006. The result is that we have clinics and hospitals staffed with people who are educated primarily in the drug-treatment paradigm, prescribing medications that are often produced by the funders of their education.
- Pharmaceuticals wine, dine and compensate doctors. A study done by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 94 percent of doctors have ties to the drug industry, 80 percent accept free food and drug samples, and 28 percent were paid for giving lectures, signing patients up for clinical trials or consulting. Most of the time this isn’t disclosed to patients, so they’re unaware of their doctors’ conflicts of interest.
- Pharmaceuticals patent life and exploit indigenous knowledge. Pharmaceuticals are gaining a monopoly over biological diversity. Approximately 90 percent of the world’s biological resources are in developing countries, yet 95 percent of patents on life are held in industrial countries. Large pharmaceuticals often consult with indigenous people in order to learn about beneficial plants. They then patent the plant (or the beneficial organism within it) without acknowledging or compensating indigenous people for their shared knowledge. This patent gives the pharmaceuticals exclusive rights — also known as Intellectual Property Rights — to develop and profit from the sale of commercial drugs. If indigenous people or others use or sell the patented plants, they can be tried in court for violating the patent, which has already happened many times.
- Pharmaceuticals promote the use of more drugs. Pharmaceuticals are in the business of pushing more drugs. You see them in commercials, advertisements, doctor’s offices, conferences, universities, health publications, journals and more. When a drug’s patent is about to expire, pharmaceutical companies who own the patent will often market a “new” drug that is essentially the same, just re-branded and re-named.
- Pharmaceuticals run aggressive marketing campaigns. For example, in 2005 for every dollar Pfizer spent on scientific research, it spent $2.28 on marketing and administrative costs. 
- Prescription medications can be harmful. In 2003, Americans purchased 2.8 billion prescription drugs, an average of almost 10 prescriptions per person. In the U.S. our population is dramatically overmedicated, and sometimes the consequences are deadly. Prescription drugs are a leading cause of death in the U.S. — experts estimate that at least 100,000 Americans die every year from prescription drugs. That’s about 270 people every day.
Opportunity: Whole-systems healing
 Top Pharmaceutical Lobby Spenders in 2007 by the Center for Public Integrity: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/rx/images/Chart_1.jpg
 Checkbook Politics by Victoria Kreha: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/rx//report.aspx?aid=720
 For more details on how this is achieved, check out a study by the Journal Sentinel: Drug Firms’ Cash Skews Doctor Classes investigating the University of Wisconsin’s drug ties: http://www.jsonline.com/news/42064977.html
 The New England Journal of Medicine. A National Survey of Physician-Industry Relationships. April 26, 2007. Volume 356: 1740-1750, Number 17. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/356/17/1742
 Biopiracy: A New Threat to Indigenous Rights and Culture in Mexico by Global Exchange. April 2001: http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/biopiracy.pdf
 Melody Petersen. Our Daily Meds. New York: Picador, 2008. (p. 155)
 Lazarou, et al. Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients. The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 279 No. 15. April 15, 1998.