Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine once said (or screamed in typical Rage fashion), "If ignorance is bliss, then knock the smile off my face."

I have to disagree with this sentiment. I wish I could forget some of the things I now know. I wish I could un-open my eyes, so to speak, to the bullshit that I now realize goes on in this world. Maybe then, I wouldn't be up in the wee hours of the morning posting shit on this site. Maybe, in contrast to De La Rocha, somebody could knock a smile back onto my face.

I look at the average people walking around completely oblivious to the things around them. They don't think about much, or at least they don't think very deeply about it.

Here's an example: A lot of people bitch about why drug prices are so damn high. That's one I hear all the time. The pharmaceutical companies are ripping everyone off by making drugs $5, $10, $20+ per tablet. That's such an easy explanation. It puts the blame on the evil pharmaceutical companies. However, the average person doesn't realize that it costs an average of $900 MILLION to bring 1 compound from synthesis to market as a drug. I forget the exact number, but it's something like 1 out of every 10,000 potential drugs actually gets approved by the FDA. That means, drug companies OFTEN spend millions of dollars on drugs that never reach the market, and thus, never make any money for the company. Moreover, the patent on a drug lasts 17 years. This patent starts just after the compound is synthesized. It takes an average of about 10 years to bring a drug from synthesis to FDA approval. That means that the drug company only has about 7 years in order to make back the $900 million it spent on that drug, as well as the multiple millions it spent on failed drugs.

Wait Pharmacy Mike... If it's so hard to make money off drugs, then why do drug companies keep posting record profits? Good question there. That would seem to contradict every thing I've just said. However, if you look at it, only a handful of brand pharmaceutical companies are doing well. You have Pfizer of course, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and I'll even throw in Bristol-Myers Squibb, and maybe one or 2 more I can't think of at the moment. Even these companies have hit some hard times lately. Pfizer lost BILLIONS when it's HDL raising drug torcetrapid was rejected by the FDA. In addition, Zocor going generic has cut into its sales of Lipitor a little. In response, Pfizer has laid off a ton of employees. Merck got hammered when Vioxx was pulled from the market. Bristol-Myers Squibb hasn't been on really steady financial footing for some time now.

What else contributes to high drug prices? Here's an answer no one wants to hear. THE CONSUMER, or more specifically, the consumer that runs, grabs a lawyer, and sues for billions every time a prescription drug causes some sort of adverse reaction. Ask Purdue how they feel about the multibillion dollar lawsuit over supposedly down playing the abuse-potential of Oxycontin. I'm sure Merck would have something to say regarding the suit against Vioxx causing heart attacks. Now I'm not defending Merck for covering up evidence that Vioxx increased the risk of cardiovascular events. That was bad of them. Very bad. However, the risk of these ultra expensive lawsuits is one of the factors as to why drug prices are so high. Basically, whenever a company makes an effective, relatively safe drug, they have to charge the shit out of everyone for it in hopes to make enough money to pay for research and development costs of that drug and other failed drugs as well as future R&D costs. Remember, they only have about 7 years until the patent expires and generics come out.

If you want to get pissed at drug companies, get pissed at generic makers like Watson, Teva, and Mylan. These companies let the Pfizers of the world pay for all the R&D on new drugs, then when the patent expires, they just run 2 bioequivalency studies, and within a few months, they have a blockbuster generic that costs them pretty much nothing to make. Generic Zocor (simvastatin) should cost pennies, yet they charge a pretty hefty amount considering it's a generic.

Here's something that ties into drug costs: A lot of people are complaining about how the FDA keeps approving drugs that have serious health risks or adverse effects. The FDA is doing a shitty job. They should be doing much better everyone says. Well, you want to know why the FDA is doing a shitty job? It's because pharmaceutical companies put pressure on the FDA to approve drugs as quickly as possible. Afterall, the longer it takes for the FDA to approve a drug, the less time the drug has remaining on patent, thus less time for it to make money. This is just one more reason why drug prices are so high. I don't quite remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure that drug companies are actually able to pay the FDA a certain amount of money in order for the FDA to hire more workers, which would help speed up the approval process.

It's not all the FDA's fault that they're terribly understaffed and poorly financed though. Afterall, the FDA is under control of the U.S. Government. Why doesn't the government fund the FDA better? I can't say for sure, but I'd wager that it has something to do with spending billions and billions and billions of dollars on this little war we're inappropriately involved in.

This is what I'm talking about when I say that I wish I had a simpler mind. Most people don't realize that everything is connected. They don't realize that there isn't a simple explanation for everything. To me, it's much more of a curse than a blessing to be able to see all the angles and connect the dots. It would be so much easier to just have something or someone to blame for every little thing that goes wrong in my life or in this world.

Basically, as much as a retard he is, I wish I had a mind like George W Bush. Dubya has such a simple mind. He firmly believes the United States is the greatest country in the world, and does so with no other reasoning other than it's the United States. He spews out democracy, freedom, and liberty with such pride and conviction, but never stops to think what those words really mean. He just knows they're good things. He figured that Sadam Hussain equaled evil, and the fact that he removed Sadam from power justifies the whole Iraq War. He never gave a thought to stability of the region. He never thought that perhaps Iraq doesn't want to be like the United States. In fact, Dubya actually believes with all his heart that the whole world wishes they were just like us. He sees issues as black or white, right or wrong. Dubya does not see the various shades of gray that exist. And you know what? He's a happy person. Nothing can bring him down. Nothing can make him doubt himself or his vision.

I'm jealous of that. Yeah, maybe being a simpleton would get me ridiculed by people like me, but it wouldn't matter. I'd just be able to shrug them off as liberal elite assholes and go on with my happy, oblivious life.


pepperpourri said...

You know, before I came to pharmacy school, and before I learnt about the phases in clinical trials, I couldn't understand why drug prices are so high. Now that I know, I do not complain about it anymore.

I guess life is just complicated. Or maybe, it's just how you view it. To me though, it is complicated.

By the way, WordPress support groups aren't that supportive as they named themselves, lol. I still can't sort out the problem. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, and you have a lot of it right but you are too young and niave about some things. I guarantee you GWB isn't a simpleton. No one (even relatives of presidents) gets to the highest office in the land without knowing the ins and outs of how the country really works.

Maybe, he "plays" dumb as a way to lure "simpletons" into supporting the complex issues he supports, of which he is a major contributor whether you believe it or not.