Big Pharma continues to find new ways to make itself the most hated industry in America, with a recent scandal now shedding light on just how far the industry is willing to go to pimp its product.
That scandal is the recent arrest of Insys Therapeutics former CEO Michael Babich on grounds that would make even some hardened criminals’ skin crawl. According to a report from Vice News, Babich is accused by the Department of Justice of having bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray intended for cancer patients experiencing severe pain. Most of the patients receiving the drug from the physicians allegedly did not have cancer.
For those of you not fluent in chemical names, this basically means they bribed doctors to prescribe a substance (fentanyl) that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. So deadly is fentanyl, in fact, that it and a stronger cousin drug may be largely responsible for the recent epidemic of opioid overdoses. Insys Therapeutics was paying doctors to prescribe a drug with this poison as its active ingredient.
Under any circumstances this story would be vile. But given the political causes to which pharma has recently hitched its star, the fact that Subsys is not merely fentanyl-based, but is also a cancer drug makes it especially scandalous. Nor is it some sort of anti-capitalist corporate baiting to point this out: Pharma is one of the most partisan Democrat industries in America, donated record numbers to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, arguably built Obamacare for itself, and relies disproportionately on corporate welfare and regulation to keep its prices artificially high.
And wouldn’t you know it, one type of drug whose price pharma profits especially from inflating is cancer drugs. So much so, in fact, that they have taken to trying to kill even entirely voluntary measures that keep the costs of cancer drugs down for vulnerable populations. The best example of this is probably the 340B drug pricing program, which requires companies that want to sell to the Medicaid and Medicare part B market to also sell their drugs at a reduced price to hospitals that service vulnerable patients: specifically, hospitals like childrens’ hospitals, rural hospitals, or safety-net hospitals. Naturally, this program is especially helpful for poor cancer patients, given the aforementioned extremely high prices of cancer drugs, which is one big reason why pharma so desperately wants to kill it.
I mention this only because when combined with the Insys story, it shows the truly sociopathic mindset behind so much of the pharmaceutical industry’s business strategy. So let’s review:
Insys was allegedly bribing doctors to prescribe Subsys, a painkiller that is more dangerous than heroin itself. This obviously would’ve cut into their profit margin from selling Subsys, since such bribes were presumably not cheap. Yet when pharmaceutical companies like Insys are asked to sacrifice even the slightest measure of their profit margin in order to gain access to American taxpayers’ money, they scream bloody murder. In essence, the industry wants taxpayers to pay them, even if they’re literally using their profits to compromise the Hippocratic Oath itself.
This is the kind of behavior that gave the phrase “drain the swamp” such rhetorical power to begin with. One only hopes that the incoming administration, and the incoming Congress, will put an end to these politically hostile cronies’ ability to expropriate money from the very people who they are bribing doctors to poison.