Purdue Pharma headquarters in downtown Stamford, Conn. Purdue Pharma raked in $35,000,000,000 between 1995 and 2017 from peddling OxyContin. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

10 Signs That Prove Big Pharma Could Care Less About Your Health

Drug companies are lobbying to protect their right to profit from any future Covid-19 vaccine.

BY Dayton Martindale

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The clearest way out of the current pandemic—though it may a year or more away—is a vaccine, mass produced and made freely available to all.

This being America, of course, not everyone is on board for making something free. In the lead-up to the first coronavirus relief bill, pharmaceutical companies lobbied against any language constraining their right to profit. When Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) suggested that private corporations not be granted the exclusive right to set the price of any future vaccine, Republicans shot it down.

While the high stakes make this especially galling, it’s pretty much par for the course for the pharmaceutical industry. The U.S. government spends billions on research funding, but Americans pay more for most prescription drugs than almost any other country. And despite profit margins most other industries would kill for, Big Pharma hasn’t let up on the gas pedal. They pour millions into lobbying and elections to protect their interests, and everywhere you look, the fox is guarding the henhouse: To pick just one example, President Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, is a former drug company lobbyist.

So we end up with a topsy-turvy world in which we are prescribed more than we need—unnecessary antibiotics, for instance, or addictive opioids—but we can’t afford the drugs that might actually help us; where public money subsidizes private companies’ patents, allowing them to profit exclusively off their drugs; and a world-altering virus thrusts millions into economic precarity but they might still have to pay big for a vaccine. 

These 10 statistics show where Big Pharma's priorities actually lie—and, spoiler alert, they're not with your health.


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Dayton Martindale is former associate editor of In These Times, and a founding member of Symbiosis. His writing has appeared in In These Times, Earth Island Journal and The Next System Project, Boston Review and Harbinger. He tweets at @DaytonRMartind.

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