Mt. Vernon Register-News

December 17, 2013


The Register-News

---- — I am sitting in the dentist office waiting to be called for my procedure. The waiting room has several magazines and newspapers lying on the tables. One article catches my attention in a St. Louis paper. The article byline only states Associated Press.

In large headlines, “Drug maker fined $2.2 billion over marketing, kickbacks.” I found it hard to believe that Johnson and Johnson had agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion (yes the article stated billion with a lot of zero’s) to resolve criminal and civil allegations that the company promoted powerful psychiatric drugs for unapproved uses in children, seniors and disabled patients. This is reported to be the third-largest settlement with a drug maker in U.S. history.

It was alleged that they used illegal marketing and kickbacks to increase sales of certain drugs by persuading physicians and pharmacists to prescribe drugs by pushing medicines for unapproved, or “off-label” uses.

They reportedly agreed in a plea agreement by a J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical to admit to promoting Riseperdal as a way to control erratic behavior in seniors with dementia; a drug explicitly barred today because it can increase the risk of stroke and death in elderly patients. They agreed to plead guilty to violating drug marketing laws according to the article.

I had just finished reading an article sent to me about folks bending the rules and bordering on being illegal because they could not afford medicine that they desperately need.

The article started with a woman being denied a shipment of a necessary drug because it came from Canada. She had been getting her medicine from there for several years because her supply cost $100 from Canada and $1,000 in the United States. She received a letter that her shipment had been impounded because it was illegal to ship into the United States.

Reports state that millions of folks are telling white lies and bending the rules to be able to afford the drugs they need. What is wrong with us that we allow an industry to charge us more than other countries just because the drug companies are so powerful and spend so much money lobbying Congress?

Some of the things you read really cause you to wonder why we allow such blatant disregard to continue. We are told of folks convincing their doctors to prescribe double the dosage and cutting the pills in half in order to afford the needed drugs. I read another story of folks “borrowing” medicine from friends and relatives.

Remember the news story about the bus loads of seniors going from Detroit to Canada just to be able to afford the medicine they need? I find this hard to believe that our Congress that supposedly represents us is so beholden to the money from the drug companies that they will not allow negotiation of prices in Medicare D for seniors. I have not heard any mention of this in all the hoopla surrounding the Affordable Care Act; have you?

The power of this special interest group is amazing that not only were they successful in banning negotiation of prices for Medicare D, but they continue to block lower prices from sources outside the United States or even re-importation of drugs made here from other overseas sources.

Some of the reasons given really should give us something to think about. Take a look at this posted reason: “The government also prohibits ‘re-importation’ of drugs made in the United States because it cannot guarantee the medications were not tampered with or stored improperly.” Do you believe that they can guarantee that every drug made here was stored properly and not tampered with?

C’mon, some of these thousands of folks have been getting their drugs from Canada and other places for years because they cannot afford to buy them here at four to five times the reported cost and they cannot get by without them.

In a listing in, guess who is listed number one and number two in money spent lobbying Congress? Pharmaceutical companies are at $2,622,476 at number one and insurance $1,853,011 (billions again) at number two. It should not really surprise anyone, should it?

C’mon, you can fix this with your votes. If you are a strong Democrat just vote for another Democrat, and if you are a strong Republican just vote for another Republican. This has nothing to do with party. Just do not vote for anyone in either party who will allow seniors to pay double and triple for their drugs more than other countries and is against direct single payer and publicly financed elections.

I do not know how they can defend their actions, spend billions lobbying and then one drug company agrees to pay a reported $2.2 billion dollars for alleged illegal marketing. They agreed to plead guilty to violating drug marketing laws.