*Except in New Zealand and the United States.
Modern medicine is a wondrous thing. Anyone who has ever dreamed of living hundreds of years ago needs to consider how likely they would have died young back then, due in large part to a widespread lack of medical care. Quite a few of us are literally only alive today because of antibiotics, and many of the rest of us have had some procedure that made a potentially chronic condition go away altogether. I’ve been in both boats myself at some point, and I’m super glad that modern medicine was around to float me safely through each scenario.
We might not all owe our lives to advances in healthcare, but a lot of us do. You could make an argument that disease is nature’s way of culling the herd, and that any action we take to tease a few more years out of our bodies is unnatural intervention; yet again, a lot of us wouldn’t be around to make the argument if that were the case.
The last thing I want to do here is say we should throw out the baby along with the bathwater. Modern medicine has done some pretty amazing stuff, and continues to do so every day; we should keep that baby, because it really is best for all of us if we do. However, the bath water keeps getting dirtier; and not addressing the situation just because there’s a baby involved is not making things any better.
At some point drug companies saw an opportunity, and they seized it. If you have enough money, you can research and market drugs in America just like you can any other product. Of course, you also need to have enough money to pay off the government agency that regulates this type of thing. On top of that, you also have to lobby for your product; and although some forms of lobbying make total sense, giving money to legislators to get them on your side is the most popular way to do it. That means you have to bribe the government, basically; but this is a legal form of bribery, so that makes it okay.
The amount of funds needed to do all this is pretty ridiculous. Research and development are big bills to pay, especially if any of the products you come up with never make it to market; and those monies have to be spent if you want to develop drugs in any scenario. Some of these drugs are only going to help a small portion of the population, and they can’t help if the people that need them don’t know about them. It just makes sense, that drug companies will try to make the most profit on each of the products they sell.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the only funds they’re trying to recover. Government approval does not come cheap, and those lobbyists have access to the kind of money that would make most people’s heads spin. They know their competition is playing the same game, so they have to make sure they’re bribes are comparable; and when you pile up all the dough a drug company has to pay just to get a product to market, you might actually find yourself wondering how they can ever make a profit without selling some stuff at very high prices.
Well, they can’t. Don’t forget that after all this, drug companies still have to secure the actual advertising. Television ads don’t come cheap, and these companies are forced to either pass those costs on to the consumer or go out of business. To mitigate this, insurance companies step in and cover a lot of prescriptions; but all that does is make things that much harder on everyone who can’t afford insurance.
Actually, it does more than that. The people who can afford insurance have seen the bill they pay for coverage go up significantly over the years, while watching the incidents that qualify for coverage decrease. The people who can’t afford insurance still go to see doctors when they need to, and no one can really blame them for that. Someone has to pay for it, however; and those costs often get passed on to the people who do have insurance. That’s why coverage keeps going up, while quality of care goes down; at least, it’s one of the reasons. If we’re going to really point out the cause of all this, we can do so in one broad stroke.
As long as healthcare is monetized for profit, these problems and more will persist. Everyone from the drug company to the local politician gets a slice of that profit pie, which means the profits have to keep rising if the system is going to be sustainable. Corporations have it pretty tough, in many ways; but most of them aren’t regulated as heavily as drug companies. These folks have to pay out in so many different directions, it’s no wonder they sink to the kind of tactics we see on commercials for their products. Like any other corporation, they have to grow or die; but unlike those other examples, they have a lot of people on the payroll who have nothing to do with the actual product.
When a drug causes accidental death, you can bet the government agency that approved the product washes its hands of all responsibility. Drug companies have to set aside a certain amount of money for cases like this, which is just another bill that gets tacked on to their final payout. Once again, it’s easy to wonder how these companies are making any money at all; and once again, we have to realize that those costs are being passed on to the consumer.
This is a big subject, and the results reach out in a number of different directions; but it all starts from the same place. Of all the countries that have tackled this issue, America has clearly done the worst job of it. Those of us who were born here can still count ourselves lucky that we weren’t born in a place with little or no healthcare; but we aren’t as lucky as the folks who live in other developed countries. They took money out of this equation a long time ago, and nearly all of them made advertising drugs directly to the consumer illegal somewhere along the way.
Clearly, they saw how many problems could come from making medicine all about profit; so most developed countries never had to deal with things like widespread bankruptcy due to healthcare costs or drug companies that avoid looking for cures because longterm treatment is more profitable. We may get some of the very best doctors in America, but knowing they’re here doesn’t actually do much for most of us. The really good doctors don’t even bother with insurance, since the system is so corrupt and counterproductive; instead they offer the best care to those with the most cash, while letting the rest of the country do what we can with what we’ve got.
We can’t blame these individuals, since they don’t have much choice in the matter either. Punishing someone for being good at what they do won’t help the rest of us, and there will always be a market for great doctors to make great money. Really, though; that market should not be a place as big as the United States. The only message anyone is getting from this situation is that the government here doesn’t care about keeping its people healthy as much as it cares about extracting more money from them. This is much more than a thought that hurts to think; in reality, it is a situation that kills people every year both financially and literally.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,