Of Pharma Follies and Thai Vaccines

by Michael Culbert

Editor of Health Freedom News

Board member of the National Health Federation

In good times and bad you can count on the US (and global) pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma, some call it) to prosper. And why not? Its primary captive, organized western allopathic— uh, "scientific or "rational" — medicine is its bridge to the lemming-like dupes and consumers (patients and the general public) who ultimately pay the bills for BP’s grossly overpriced pills and potions.

Thanks to Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, we were informed June 23 that, even though 2002 was not a year to write home about the American economy, the 10 biggest drug companies listed in the Fortune 500 actually saw a 3.5 percent reduction in profits over 2001 — while tallying a nifty $35.9 billion in take-home.

Before Care packages are sent to the big guys, though, bear in mind that in 2002 the Fortune 500 units as a whole saw profits sag a startling 66.3 percent. Thanks, again, to Public Citizen we learned that despite rickety 2002 the 10 drug giants’ profits, however slightly down, were equal to more than half the $69.9 billion in profits garnered by the entire Fortune 500!

As a sign that Big Pharma is ever alert, the advocacy group reported June 23 that the pharmaceutical industry spent a record $91.4 million on lobbying activities in 2002 while hiring an army of 675 lobbyists.  Spending on lobbying by the druggies was 12 percent higher than in 2001 while the actual number of backslapping influence peddlers was up by 4 percent.

Assessed Public Citizen, among the drug industry’s lobbyists in 2002 were 26 former members of Congress, and 342 of the lobbyists had ties of one kind or another to the federal government.

Public Citizen estimates that the drug industry has spent $650 million on lobbying Congress since 1997, including $478 million in direct lobbying efforts and $172 million in federal campaigns, advertisements, funding for non-profit organizations (seen by many as "fronts" for Big Pharma) and "other activities."

While drug industry lobbying has tended to favor Republicans over Democrats (the current Administration is larded with so many reps and/or holders of drug company stocks that it seems at times to be an extension of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PRMA), which collectively "speaks for the industry), plenty of legal cash has gone to both parties.

Hence it is no particular surprise that President Bush picked Randall Tobias, the former chief executive officer of Eli Lilly & Co., to ramrod a new program whereby the US (that is, taxpayers) will provide $15 billion to battle AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, but primarily in Africa, where UN figures (some cast into considerable doubt) have painted a consistently gloomy picture of more than a dozen countries bearing such enormous numbers of alleged HIV infections that it is a wonderment that at the end of each year there are more people being born in the Dark Continent than dying in it.

It is questionable whether the former Lilly executive will be pushing for things that might really help, such as clean water, nutrition, better sanitation and hygiene all around, and numerous ways to improve immune systems hobbled by a plethora of bacterial and fungal infections. But it is likely that he will find ways and means to unload into Africa the outrageously expensive and often extremely hazardous "cocktail" antiviral drugs which, giving the devil his due, have indeed slashed death rates among the HIV infectees in the Western world who can tolerate them.

But we won’t prejudge the outcome.

Even as President Bush was announcing the Tobias nomination, a number of African companies were expressing interest in the "oral therapeutic vaccine" V-1 produced heroically by the upstart Immunitor Corporation Co. in Thailand.

V-1 of course, aside from solidly researched studies indicating its efficacy in bolstering immunity, decreasing "viral loads," attacking fungi and helping reverse the "wasting syndrome" characteristic of much of AIDS in the world, is anathema to Big Pharma: It is too damned cheap. Of the 65,000 people in the world "on" the little pink pills by this summer in 65 countries, more than 40,000 — most of them Thais — had received the treatments for free. Even when they paid at roughly cost by Thailand terms the take is about $20 a month.

Assuming expanded production for profit might even double or triple the price, V-1 remains the least expensive and most effective AIDS treatment around just now, and it has the added virtue of being nontoxic. But you rarely hear about it. Passing strange, that.

It would be good to see the Gates Foundation, International AIDS Czar Tobias, and others, take up the cause of V-1. At home, where Big Pharma’s tentacles also wrap around sectors of Thai medicine and industry, the international drug companies have done everything imaginable to thwart, hinder, block and frustrate the extremely useful invention of pharmacist Vichai Jirathitikal, who has one of those Buddhistic/moralistic hang-ups — he can’t understand why people should make money off dying AIDS patients.

Note in this edition, too, how the vaccine sector of Big Pharma, like Topsy, "just growed" again last year and keeps growing.

American hats should be off to United Press International (UPI) — yes, freed of the press really does mean something at times — which July 20 published the results of a four-year probe into the big, bad vaccine business.

UPI’s Mark Benjamin reported that even as the industry since the 1980s had doubled the numbers of jolting jabs forced on children up to age 2 to nearly 40, "the annual global market for vaccines is expected to go from $6 billion to $10 billion by 2006."

UPI’s survey includes the striking gathering evidence of the relationship between childhood disorders (autism in particular) and other defects to the national frenzy to vaccinate the kiddies. It also notes plenty of adult side effects, as well.

So vaccines constitute a growth industry all by themselves. It is aided and abetted by industry-influenced politicos who, through federal and state legislation, have literally forced American public school children to get the shots — or else.

Luckily, the ever-crackling Internet is rife with information from outraged anti-vax parental groups, primarily in the USA (but the Brits are not far behind) on how there are various forms in the various states for parents to fill out to keep their children off the mandated shots for religious or other reasons.

Hopefully, enough of this exclusionism will occur before Homeland Security decides that immunization-opposing parents are threats to the body politic and need to be relocated somewhere. Guantanamo, say.