Medicine: The Price We Pay

Allegations recently emerged that the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK) was directly involved in systematically bribing doctors in China.

In the UK, The Cochrane Collaboration recently claimed that the drug Tamiflu, on which the Government spent around £473m, “did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms.” A result of unpublished research data about the drug’s side-effects and usefulness.

So, when did it pay to be part of the medical industry?

The answer, to cut a long story short, is that it has always paid to be part of the medical industry. If you consider the religious healers of the ancient Greek and Roman Asklepieion, 17th & 18th century quacks, private physicians  and apothecaries, it is clear that “medical professionals” having been charging us for their services for thousands of years.

The only difference now is the sheer scale of the industry, a multi-billion dollar industry at that. Those on the front line of the healthcare industry are the vital, dedicated and empathetic individuals all of us will at some point come into contact with. What is often forgotten however, is that behind these qualified professionals is a ruthless business that trades in undercutting the opposition. And like any other business it is driven by money; hooking big investors, raising share prices and widening profit margins.

The problem? The medical infrastructure, in effect hospitals, medical equipment, doctors and nurses, is in place to save lives and improve a patient’s quality of life with the best resources at it’s disposal. The companies that supply this equipment, research data and drugs have these and other demands pressing on them at any one time. So why is it that patients are sometimes compromised, that pharmaceutical don’t always publish all of their data and in some cases particular medicines are prescribed in favour of other more effective ones?…Because if that meant losing out to another company,losing money, losing investors, losing shares and stock prices the industry wouldn’t pay. And as we know medicine is a money game.

Roy Porter, Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine

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