Thursday, August 30, 2012

Big Pharma cf Big Tobacco

Are Drug Companies of Today Like Tobacco Companies of Yesterday?

“From the 1950s to the present, different defendants, at different times and using different methods, have intentionally marketed to young people under the age of twenty-one in order to recruit ‘replacement smokers’ to ensure the economic future of the tobacco industry.” – U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler Final Opinion, United States v. Phillip Morris (1)

Anyone born before the 80s are likely to remember the catchy tobacco slogans, such as “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” and “Chesterfield: Blow some my way”, as tobacco companies attempted to lure people to take up smoking.

Although, as the health pitfalls of smoking became increasingly apparent, tobacco advertising gradually faded and was banned from television entirely in the U.S. when Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act in the early 70s.

Throughout the proceeding decades, various other acts were passed intended to deter smokers. These acts included the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in the U.S., which stated that all tobacco packaging and adverts must come displayed with a health warning.

Consequently, the tobacco industry is one of the most tightly regulated forms of marketing, and nowadays catchy smoking jungles have been replaced by haunting anti-smoking warnings.

However, the same cannot be said about the drug companies of today, which, similarly to the tobacco companies of yesterday, are producing highly addictive drugs and are intentionally pushing those drugs to get more people addicted – ultimately to increase profits.

The Evidence

So what is the evidence to back up such a controversial claim?

On August 17, 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Kentucky issued a press statement about federal indictments charging several pain clinic owners and doctors with making millions by illegally distributing prescription drugs to residents of Kentucky.

The press release, which was published on the FBI website, revealed that five indictments were made, charging 22 defendants – six doctors and five pain clinic owners – with offences including health care fraud, money laundering, and dealing prescription drugs. (2)

According to the press release, Houston-based Dr. Linda Roos allegedly conspired to prescribe and unlawfully distribute Oxycodone pills from 2006 until 2011. Roos’ patients, Dennis and Helen Varney, have been charged with conspiring to distribute prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, Beverly Lockhart, a manager of a pharmacy in Pikeville and Dr Thad Manning allegedly conspired to sell illegal drug samples as well.

Over in Johnson County, Caremore Pain Clinic owners, Tammy Cantrell and Shelby Lackey, conspired with a doctor to distribute Hydrocodone to residents, allegedly making almost $2 million in the proceeds. In yet a further indictment, a Florida pain clinic owner, Jody Robinson also conspired with a doctor to illegally dispense of Oxycodone, Xanax and Hydrocodone, and allegedly made $1.5 million in just two years from the proceeds. (2)

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