Drugs and Profits: Welcome to America’s Health Industry

The lead article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle was about the drug shortages rampant throughout the country. Pharmaceutical companies allegedly can’t keep up with the demand for drugs dealing with cancers, flues, migraines and other life-threatening diseases suffered by Americans. The reasons for the shortages that were put forward by the industry were multiple: business decisions based on the fact that certain drugs were not “cost efficient” enough to support their continued production; limited manufacturing capacity; consolidation among competing manufacturers; recalls because of labeling or safety concerns; raw material shortages; and, supply chain problems.

What is most astonishing about these “shortages” and the fatuous explanations for the temporary unavailability of certain drugs is not the transparent falsity as to why the drugs are unavailable in the first place, but rather, it is the blatancy of the raw manipulation of supply and demand for profit that stuns the reader. While corporations in this country have always manufactured shortages in order to raise prices and limit supply (the oil and gas industries are notorious for such manipulation), there has never been a more shameful conspiracy to deprive Americans of basic health needs by a handful of capitalist vultures than currently confronts us.

It is not surprising that in three full pages of newspaper print, the authors did not devote one sentence to the suggestion that health concerns should trump profit motives, and that the U.S. government should intervene to protect the lives of U.S. citizens from these industrial gangsters. It is though a handful of arms manufacturers could bring about a shortage in defense armaments such as to endanger the entire nation, and yet the government took no steps to ensure the production of adequate weaponry to protect the nation.

Did the Chronicle understand or discuss the relationship between the health of the nation, and the government’s responsibility to its citizens. Of course not! We’re talking capitalism and profit here – since when should the government concern itself with shortages of life-saving medicines when pharmaceutical company profits are concerned?

Will Rogers, the famous politician/statesman of old, would pull out a newspaper and read the headlines as part of his satirical analysis of government folly.  Today, when the federal government is so broken, it is the corporations and their store-bought media that are the appropriate topics for meaningful comic relief. It is impossible to read tripe like the Chronicle without gagging on the lies and distortions presented to justify corporate abuse. It is one thing for a handful of billionaire oligarchs to dominate the economic reality under which we all live. It is another to watch the lapdog media attempt to discuss our economic environment seriously without pointing out the consequences of this economic system on its victims.

Where is Will Rogers when we need him?

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law. Read other articles by Luke, or visit Luke's website.