Category Archives: Health Care Industry

Have pharmaceutical companies replaced tobacco companies as America’s number 1 killer?

Did you see the CNN special on prescription drugs (Deadly Dose: A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Investigation)?

Here are just two of the many interesting facts that came out during the segment;

  • 90% of the world’s opiate prescription drugs are consumed in the U.S and
  • between 1997 and 2007 the prescription of opioids increased more than 600%.

For those of you who have followed my coverage of the pharmaceutical industry starting with my 2009 post “Antipsychotic Prescriptions . . . for Children: Is the Medicaid Story Today’s Version of Go Ask Alice?,” in which I discussed the prescribing of these powerful drugs to children between the ages of 3 and 17, you will know that my research points to some pretty shocking revelations.

This being said I have to admit that the rate at which Americans consume painkillers caught me somewhat by surprise.  I am not talking about the fact that America is the biggest user of prescription pills mind you.  What I am referring to is the sheer numbers which tend to show a country that is out of control . . . medically speaking.

However, and eerily similar to a pusher of illegal drugs, the pharmaceutical industry representative that Gupta interviewed did a obvious bob and weave evasion in terms of answering the question regarding the industry’s role in facilitating the epidemic.  I only wish that Gupta had been more direct by putting out the question regarding the commonplace practice of off-label marketing that provides physicians with the incentive to over-prescribe drugs.

In January I will be airing a special in which I will talk with health industry experts about this growing problem.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?  Has the pharmaceutical industry taken over from the tobacco industry as the biggest threat to the health of Americans?

The old drug of choice . . .

The old drug of choice . . .



Is it time for Canada to abandon socialized medicine?

Maggie Reese’s account of her struggle with Bipolar Disorder in Runaway Mind is on of the most compelling and thought provoking books that I have ever read, especially with the inclusion of corresponding commentaries by those closest to her.

Of the many points that stand out in the book is Reese’s account of her time spent in hospitals and the stark contrast between the level of care she received from what I will call a general admission institution and the prestigious (and expensive at $7,000 per day) Stanford medical facility.

The difference between the two facilities are glaringly obvious with the former being more reminiscent of the hospital portrayed in the movie The Snake Pit, where staff is ill equipped to do little more than use inexplicable means of intimidation to maintain control as opposed to actually treating patients.

It is to say the least, the most telling example of getting what you pay for, which can’t help but lead one to wonder what might have happened if the general admission hospital was the best level of care Reese was able to receive?

We will be airing a special BTW! on the state of the Canadian healthcare system, and more specifically on the Province of Quebec.

While we will be citing numerous studies and reports, we will also be focusing on what can only be described as the deplorable conduct of professionals such as the Buckingham psychiatrist who in treating a patient with Bipolar Disorder used his sessions to talk about his investment group, eventually persuading his patient to make an investment by way of a $1,200 check.

Given the declining level of service we receive through our flagging healthcare system, one of the key questions we will ask and seek to answer is whether it is time for Canada to abandon social medicine either in part in or whole in favor of a privatized model.

Use the following link to tune in to both the LIVE and on-demand broadcast “Poor Health: How Quebec’s System Is Failing Its Citizens.”


Your president thinks you’re STUPID

Forget faith. Forget the religious argument. There is a much bigger problem and here it is:

Your president thinks you’re stupid.

That’s right. President Obama’s “Contraception Compromise” shows clearly and without a doubt that he thinks the American people are absolutely stupid.

Here are the basic facts:

  • President Obama declares that employers with a religious objection will not have to provide insurance benefits for contraception and birth control
  • Instead, insurance companies will be mandated to provide these services free of charge and…
  • …People working for religious groups with the exemption will get the coverage anyway

For Christ’s sake! There is no question that Obama thinks we’re stupid; the question now is exactly HOW stupid he thinks we are!

First of all, whether you consider yourself a religious person or not you should be afraid, very afraid of what is going on here. Never has there been a more overt declaration by the federal government that imposes governmental control over a private industry. By what authority does the president or anyone in government mandate that a private insurance company must provide a service without compensation?

Of course, you ARE stupid if you think the insurers will not pass this expense along. Of course in this version of the New World Order, everyone will share in this expense. I’m guessing that there has already been a wink and handshake deal that provides for some kind of “Equality in Coverage Fee” that will cover the extra expense.

Having children is a CHOICE. Since the beginning of this battle, advocates of birth control, particularly abortion, has been “freedom of CHOICE.” It’s a woman’s choice as to whether or not to have a child or carry a child to full term.

Well then, how do you justify stripping away someone else’s freedom to exercise their own moral conscience?

Here is the flip side argument made by the Los Angeles Times: 

“It seems wrong to require employers to provide coverage they find morally reprehensible, but equally wrong to let them make moral decisions for employees.”

By what twisted logic is any refusal to pay for optional insurance benefits somehow construed as the imposition of a moral decision? That’s like saying that unless I pick up the tab for your lunch, I’m stripping away your civil rights!

Having children is an individual choice. Whether you agree or not, aborting a pregnancy has been defended as an individual choice. How can you make this argument and at the same time say that it’s anyone else’s responsibility to pick up the tab for your individual choices?

How is an employer somehow morally obligated to pay for your birth control? How is not paying for birth control somehow making moral decisions for employees?

If employers were allowed to impose a company policy that states that you cannot have children, that argument might hold up. No — you’re free to have children or even abort them; it should be your responsibility to pay for those decisions.

I’ll be blunt: If the choice of whether or not to have a child is your individual right; then it’s also your individual responsibility to support that decision, morally and materially.

We’re not talking here about depriving anyone of fundamental human rights. You can’t, for example, make a logical argument that supports slavery. The argument here is not whether to take a fundamental right away from someone, it’s whether or not we’re going to manufacture and subsidize a new privilege.

Ironically I was about to review the new movie, “Atlas Shrugged.” In my review I was going to say that while thought provoking and in some places amazingly prophetic, overall it’s a bit melodramatic and over the top.

After the double-speak our president is attempting to pull off this week, I’m not so sure…

This is a fundamental individual rights argument masked in a religious rights argument. The issue here is not the rights of religious organizations, this is the most egregious attack on the rights of individual freedom and conscious ever attempted by our federal government.

The “you just proved that bench advertising works” axiom doesn’t when it comes to cigarette package warning labels

Nothing like pictures of rotting teeth or blackened lungs to put a damper on a sunny day. Let alone the fact that such images, even though scientifically and medically proven to be true, is a violation of free speech! At least this is what five of the six major tobacco companies are claiming as they determinedly fight the U.S. Government’s decision to follow Canada’s lead by making it a requirement for nicotine peddlers to include graphic images relating to the hazards of smoking on all packages of cigarettes. The new regulation is scheduled to take effect October 2012.

Killing the mood?

Regarding the existing health hazard labels, a 1981 Federal Trade Commission finding indicated that “there is virtually no evidence that the current warning statement on cigarette packages has had any significant effect,” as a deterrent to those who already smoke. I guess unlike the advertising taglines that adorn bus benches proclaiming that if you are reading the message it must mean that the advertiser is getting through, warning labels on smokes ultimately fall on blind eyes or deaf ears . . .

Perhaps the tobacco companies need to employ a counter measure along the lines of what the pharmaceutical companies do regarding the requirement to disclose the nasty side effects of some the drugs they are peddling? You know, the commercials where a visual scene of tranquility is framed by a relaxing and melodious tune during which time a pleasant voiced narrator provides a litany of potentially life threatening side effects. A classic slight of hand deception that entices us to keep our eyes on the shiny object and ignore the unpleasantness of truth.

While the traditional airwaves have been cut-off as a possible venue for such a ploy, perhaps the tobacco companies could create a campaign similar to the Canadian Dairy Industry a few years back where winning cartons of milk would actually make a mooing sound announcing to the lucky consumer that they had just won a pile of money! Of course instead of money, the puff and wheeze campaign could provide free lifetime dental coverage or offer a free ventilator system. Talk about making lemonade from lemons!

Who knows, given the health care controversy in America these past few years, the tobacco companies may even entice non-smokers to start smoking, especially if they offered health coverage giveaways for individuals and companies. If you think about it, it’s a great system in terms of driving America’s economic engine in that it is a self-perpetuating revenue stream that keeps the money flowing into key agriculture and medical industries.

As for those nasty images of morbid decay, smokers can also follow the lead of their cousins to the north and invest in cigarette-pack sleeves to cover up the unpleasant consequences of their filthy habits. Similar to my 3 year old son who, during a game of hide and seek, stands in one place and closes his eyes believing that if he can’t see us then we can’t see him, the out of sight out of mind approach should quell any residual reservations for those determined to light up regardless of the consequences.

Would you buy and use a product with this label?


Should Pot Be Legalized?

According to a CNBC story, Cannabis Entrepreneurs are the newest phenomena . . . as a point of context as to the rate of growth of this industry for every one new Starbucks franchise that opens, 5 Marijuana “franchise” licenses are granted by the government.

Of the hundreds who have so far responded to a PI Window on Business Poll, close to 92% are in favor of legalizing pot.  But is pot’s mainstream boom hurting America?

The following is a repost of the September 19th, 2010 PI Window on Business Blog

The debate regarding the legalization of Marijuana or “Pot” as it is often called has been a long standing one in which those both for and against are vociferous in expressing their position or beliefs regarding this tempest in a bottle or to use street slang- nickle bag.

Of course the basis for one’s belief seems to be the larger question, and one that is being asked with greater frequency concerning those whose ties to the alcohol industry are generating the level of increasing cynicism that is usually reserved for the powerful pharmaceutical giants.

This raises the question, is the issue one of possible ignorance which was reflected in the expressed views of Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown during a recent interview regarding that city’s decision to legalize the possession of small amounts of pot or, the voice of a self-serving alcohol industry waxing polemic in an effort to protect its turf.

Brown as you will note from the video attached to this poll took the opportunity to warn “hippies” that they shouldn’t “climb into your VW vans and bring your tied-down T-shirts,” and “flock to Denver thinking you can have a smoke-in at one of our mini beautiful parks.” How proud VW must be to have their brand seen as being synonymous with the hallucinatory pursuits of the “Dead Head” generation.

The fact remains that it has always been the MO of industry giants to capitalize on the fear and ignorance of a largely distracted and detached populace to further their cause.

While I personally neither drink nor smoke the wacky weed, or for that matter any form of vegetation, I have always found it to be a deplorable practice on the part of powerful industry lobbyists to feign self-righteous indignation while obfuscating the real motives for their actions, which usually starts and finishes with the bottom line.

This kind of duplicity makes me sick as it is tantamount to someone pushing me down, and then in front of the world offering me a helping hand to get up. If you didn’t push me down in the first place, I wouldn’t need your offer of benevolent assistance.

Let’s be clear about one thing, alcohol is a drug that does indeed alter perceptions and influences behavior . . . period.

In researching the topic of alcohol and its impact on crime statistics for my upcoming collaborative effort with TV’s Cop Doc (Dr. Richard Weinblatt) titled “Tasers, Abortions and Parenting: Behind the Curtain of Policing America,” the data offers this compelling insight into the “brown bag” tempest known as hooch:

“In the case of alcohol for example, at least 75% of the U.S. adult population are drinkers, with approximately 6% of that total being alcoholics. What is both surprising and worth noting is that reports indicate that 73% of all felonies are alcohol-related.

An even more telling statistic can be found in reports which indicate that 67% of all child-beating cases, 41% of forcible rapes, 80% of wife-battering, 72% of stabbings, and 83% of homicides occur when either the attacker or the victim, or for that matter both had been under the influence of alcohol.”

Based on the above the real question for some may very well shift from being one that asks if marijuana should be legal, to one that asks if alcohol should continue to be legal. Hmmmm, making alcohol illegal? All of a sudden I have this strange sense of deja vu. And if making alcohol illegal didn’t work out, why should we apply the same convoluted logic in terms of continuing to make Marijuana illegal?

From a parenting perspective, when my two oldest kids fight over the same toy, I usually give them the option to either share it or tell them that I will take it away, and thus end the acrimony of contention. I wonder how this approach would work with regard to the battle over turf between the alcohol-backed con and the activist-oriented for combatants?

In the meantime, remember to watch the video and cast your vote through our PI Window Poll: