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Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Banks' Assault on Us as 'Terrorism'

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Various definitions of terrorism have been proposed in recent years, by organizations such as the FBI, the State Department, Homeland Security, and the ACLU. Some common threads persist throughout the definitions: violence, injury or death, intimidation, intentionality, multiple targets, political motivation, reported Alternet (US).

All the criteria are met by pharmaceutical and oil and financial companies. They have all injured and intimidated the American public, and caused people to die, with intentionality shown by their refusal to acknowledge evidence of their misdeeds, and political motives clear in their lobbying efforts, where among all U.S. industries Big Pharma is #1, Big Oil is #5, and Securities/Investment #8.

The terror inflicted on Americans is real, and is documented by the facts to follow.

Big Pharma: Qualifying for Trump's Call for Capital Punishment for Drug Dealers

In a Time Magazine article a young man named Chad Colwell says "I got prescribed painkillers, Percocet and Oxycontin, and then it just kind of took off from there." Time adds: "Prescriptions gave way to cheaper, stronger alternatives. Why scrounge for a $50 pill of Percocet when a tab of heroin can be had for $5?" About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin.

Any questions about Big Pharma's role in violence and death in America have been answered by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Journal of Public Health. Any doubts about Big Pharma's intentions to intimidate the public have been put to rest by the many occasions of outrageous price gouging. And any uncertainty about political pressure is removed by its #1 lobbying ranking.

As for malicious intentions, Bernie Sanders noted, "We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured." Purdue Pharma knew all about the devastating addictive effects of its painkiller Oxycontin, and even pleaded guilty in 2007 to misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the drug’s risk. Now Purdue and other drug companies are facing a lawsuitfor "deceptively marketing opioids" and ignoring the misuse of their drugs.

No jail for the opioid pushers, though, just slap-on-the-wrist fines that can be made up with a few price increases. But partly as a result of Pharma-related violence, Americans are suffering "deaths of despair"-- death by drugs, alcohol and suicide. Suicide is at its highest level in 30 years.

Big Oil: Decades of Terror

Any doubts about the ecological terror caused by fossil fuel companies have been dispelled by the World Health Organization, the American Lung Association, the United Nations, the Pentagon, cooperating governments, and independent research groups, all of whom agree that human-induced climate change is killing people.

The oil industry's intentionality and political motives have been demonstrated by their refusal to admit the known truth, starting with Exxon, which has covered up its own climate research for 40 years, and continuing through multi-million dollar lobbying efforts by Amoco, the US Chamber of Commerce, General Motors, Koch Industries, and other corporations in their effort to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol against global warming.

Big Banks: Leaving Suicidal Former Homeowners Behind

Any doubts about the violence stemming from the 2008 mortgage crisis have been resolved by studies of recession-caused suicides. Both the British Journal of Psychiatry and the National Institutes of Healthfound definite links between the recession and the rate of suicides.

As with Big Pharma and Big Oil, intentionality and political motives are evident in the banking industry's lobbying efforts on behalf of deregulation -- leading to the same conditions that threatened American homeowners in 2008. There has also been a surge in the number of non-bank lenders, who are less subject to regulation.

Making it all worse are private developers, who make most of their profits by building fancy homes for the rich. And by avoiding affordable housing. Since the recession, Blackstone and other private equity firms -- with government subsidies -- have been buying up foreclosed houses, holding them till prices appreciate, and in the interim renting them back at exorbitant prices.

This is leaving more and more Americans out in the cold -- literally. A head of household in the U.S. needs to make $21.21 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at HUD standards, much more than the $16.38 they actually earn. Since the recession, the situation has continually worsened. From 2010 to 2016 the number of housing units priced for very low-income families plummeted 60 percent.

Here's the big picture: Since the 1980s there's been a massive redistribution of wealth from middle-class housing to the investment portfolios of people with an average net worth of $75 million. It's not hard to understand the "deaths of despair" caused by the terror inflicted on people losing their homes.

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President Trump outlined his long-awaited plan to lower drug prices, stopping short of a full-scale assault on the pharmaceutical industry while floating several ideas that could give companies heartburn, reported The Hill (US).

Trump stepped back from the some of the sweeping proposals he offered on the campaign trail, like having Medicare negotiate drug prices, but still leveled pointed criticism at the industry.

"The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers," Trump said in remarks from the White House Rose Garden. "We are putting American patients first."

The plan does not call for a major overhaul of drug companies' pricing practices, but does include some proposals that they oppose.

Drug company stocks rose after the president's speech, an indication that investors, at least, do not view the White House's agenda as a major threat to the industry's profits.

Much of Trump's plan is still in the form of questions or suggested actions, and it will take time for actual detailed proposals to be put forward.

"A lot of good questions in the plan but very little actual action," tweeted Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy & Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Seeking the upper hand ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats were quick to pounce, saying Trump was backing down from a fight with the industry.

“They’re breathing a sigh of relief in pharmaceutical board rooms across the country,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

“It’s still open season for drug companies to set astronomical prices that families can’t afford,” he added.

Among the biggest policy changes floated by the White House are requiring drug companies to disclose their prices in television ads and cracking down on delay tactics drug companies use to prevent cheaper generic drugs from reaching market.

Much of the plan does not go after drug companies directly, instead targeting other players like the “middlemen” that negotiate prices, known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), who have been criticized for a lack of transparency.

"The middlemen became very, very rich," Trump said. "They're rich. They won't be so rich anymore."

Still, PBM stocks were also up on Friday afternoon.

“The things I see are largely focused on the distribution system,” said Dr. Peter Bach, a drug pricing expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “I don’t see a lot here tackling the list price of sole source branded drugs that have these really, really high prices.”

Still, Bach said possible changes to the system of paying rebates to PBMs would be “an enormous market shifting step” whose effects would be hard to predict.

Trump also called for adding more competition into Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in doctors' offices, a program that is currently criticized as driving up costs. President Obama proposed reforms to Medicare Part B drug payments in 2016, but eventually scrapped the plan in the face of fierce resistance from doctors and drug companies.

Steve Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main drug industry trade group, issued a statement critical of some elements of the plan while adding that the group needs time to review it.

He singled out the Medicare Part B changes, saying they “could raise costs for seniors and limit their access to lifesaving treatments.”

David Mitchell, founder of the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs, was measured.

He said Trump’s actions are “not what is required to fully deliver on that promise” to lower drug prices but included some good steps, like speeding up cheaper generic drugs getting to market and capping out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

“It has some good things, some bad things, and some missing things,” he said.

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