On September 10, 2004, Peter Rost, a physician and pharmaceutical industry executive, was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Society for Professional Journalists, and openly criticized the high cost of prescription drugs and the efforts by the pharmaceutical industry and politicians to block the importation of cheaper drug from other countries.
For the past 20 years, Rost has been marketing pharmaceuticals and he is currently a Vice President with Pfizer. He has agreed to give Independent Media TV an exclusive interview for a series of articles aimed at dispelling the myths about importation through an insider's window of truth on the issue.
Rost says that his #1 concern is for the people who cannot afford their prescription drugs. He believes that people going without medication is a “bigger safety issue than anything else.”
Why Is Peter Rost Speaking Out On This Issue?
Rost recently wrote a favorable review on Amazon.com of the book, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they Deceive Us and What to do About It by Marcia Angell, which contains a highly critical assessment of the pharmaceutical industry. The responses he received on the review made Rost realize that he had something to contribute to the debate. On the question of why he is speaking out, Rost says, “I believe I am doing the right thing, both in the long-term for the pharma industry and in the short-term for all the patients who cannot afford life-saving drugs.”
First off, Rost wants everyone to know that when speaking publicly, he does not in any way represent Pfizer. “I'm simply using my right to free speech, guaranteed in the first amendment,” he states. Of course he realizes that he's not going to win any popularity contest with industry officials by speaking out but when asked whether he thinks Pfizer may take some kind of action against him for exercising his right to free speech, he says, “If they took any action against me, they would create a public martyr. I can't see how that would be in Pfizer's best interest.”
Rost Hopes To Improve The Image Of Industry
A study presented in the February 2004 edition of Pharmaceutical Executive revealed that 87% of Americans do not believe the pharmaceutical industry is honest and trustworthy. Rost found it disturbing that only 13% of the public had a positive view of the industry. He would like to change that perception and hopes that his coming forward and speaking up about important issues will be a first step in the right direction.
How Many Excuses Can Bush Come Up With?
Bush has fought against importation using every reason under the sun, except the real one, GREED. He has been in bed with the drug companies for so long that I'm beginning to think they're providing him with free drugs. What else would explain all the stupid stories that he makes about importing drugs?
Come to think of it, who was he just with last week? None other than that pill-poppin idiot Rush. Maybe Bush's cronies in the industry are supplying both of them with drugs.
Ok, if its not drugs then I'll say this again, Bush really needs to get help for his compulsive lying disorder because his tales are becoming more far-fetched every day.
Lets take a look some of the ridiculous stories he has come up with lately, while we have the opportunity to get Rost's take on a few.
In April, Bush claimed that allowing drug importation would lead to jobs losses (although job losses never seemed to bother him before). He had Commerce Undersecretary Grant Aldonas tell a Senate panel that if Congress allows importation, “There will be disinvestment in the United States, a loss of employment opportunities and frankly a loss of an industry that is a huge multiplier" in terms of benefits to the overall U.S. economy, Aldonas said.” (Reuters, 04/27/04)
Yea right. And just where are they going? Besides, half of the drug companies are not located in the US to begin with, so we can toss that excuse out.
Here's one where Bush pulls out the FEAR card (hey, it works for everything else). He got FDA Official, Lester Crawford, to say that tampering with prescription drugs imported from Canada could be a way for terrorists to attack Americans. And old Lester added a nice touch by claiming that action by terrorists was the most serious of his concerns about the efforts to import drugs from Canada.
“THE most serious concern?” I'm really scared now. Those terrorists have apparently invaded every country and every industry.
But then again maybe not because the American Progress Action Fund described Crawford's comments as a way for the administration to use “the fear of terrorism” and called the warning a “cynical, baseless and transparent” tactic.
Rost doesn't seem too worried about this either. He says, “Some people clearly are very scared about this (importation) and will put forward almost any argument.” As an example, he told about Lester saying that his main concern was that Al Qaeda might attack the supply of drugs coming from Canada, and added, “I assure you this is not a joke from Letterman.”
Could have fooled me. Was it on Saturday Night Live then? Looks like we can toss that excuse out as well.
Then there's the old false advertising trick. Bush's favorite way to manipulate the minds of seniors. The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline recently began running newspaper ads that question the quality and safety of drugs obtained from Canadian.
Which just proves once again that those greedy, heartless SOBs will go to any length to rip off seniors.
Then we are force-fed that worn-out, oldwife's tale by William Hubbard, associate commissioner for policy and planning at the FDA, who says that, “his agency was opposed to the drug import legislation because of fraud and safety concerns.” (I guess he hasn't heard about Al Qaeda yet). (Reuters, 04/27/04)
According to Rost, this one is as phony as all the others and he says, “this is an argument that could only be put forward in a country in which less than one in four citizens have applied for a passport in the last ten years and even fewer have traveled overseas.” (Like America)
He points out that everyone has conveniently forgot to tell us “stay-at-home Americans” that "in Europe, reimportation of drugs, parallel trade as it is called there, is an institution which has been in place for 20 years. The European Union has an important law that guarantees free trade within the union," he says.
In fact, Rost says there are large pharmaceutical companies that specialize in nothing but buying drugs in southern Europe from Greece, Italy and Spain where the costs are often much less, and then shipping them to countries in northern Europe like the UK, Germany, and the Nordic countries.
Rost believes that the press has a duty to report objectively on facts and take a position when things need to change. “If, for example, you report on safety issues related to reimportation, without telling the public that this has been done safely within Europe for twenty years, you mislead the public,” he claims. Rost believes the press should act as the nation's conscience.
The media needs to quit being so lazy, and start taking its job much more seriously. The public deserves to know the whole truth about government policies that affect their everyday lives. As long as Rost is brave enough to speak out, the media should be willing to feed the information to the public. Because if we stop and think about it, who knows when or if we will ever hear from another industry insider like Peter Rost again?
Evelyn J. Pringle is an Ohio-based investigative journalist, and a columnist for Independent Media TV. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. (C) Copyright 2004 Evelyn J. Pringle.
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