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Multinational Drug Dealing

The crimes of unbridled Capitalism -- via Corporate Rule, Corporate Politics, and/or a Corporate State -- is manifest to what may well be its greatest extreme in multinational pharmaceutical companies’ exploitation of First, Second and Third World countries.  Two views of this are presented here -- the first by Dave Hartley, an alternative health practitioner [who may have a conflict of interest], and the second by the world famous author, John Le Carre [whose opinion is more clearly based on objectivity].  Unfortunately both views are increasingly seen as accurate and justified.  

First, Mr. Hartley’s views:  


Thought the study of alternative medical treatment, I quickly gained the understanding that taking responsibility for one's own health & well-being is, in these corporate medical daze, a mighty & REVOLUTIONARY ACT.  [emphasis added]  

We are all familiar with the idea that our own personal health may be our greatest asset; especially if we’ve had any significant illness or injury.  But few of us recognize the corporate dominance of and fascistic dictatorial stance of our ‘modern’ medical system, via powerful lobbying by the likes of A.M.A. [American Medical Association] and Rockefeller Foundation, and via systematic and massive institutionalized corruption in Federal agencies such as the F.D.A. [Federal Drug Administration]  

Major efforts have been underway for many years to ‘Globalize’ the corruption and the corporate profiteering which takes a great toll in human welfare.  The U.S. pharmaceutical medical system, as practiced in the U.S. , is now the third leading killer of U.S. citizens; with pharmaceutical-prescribing doctors directly causing more deaths than automobile accidents and guns combined.  (This only counts the ones that are clearly proven; likely if less cover-up were in place, doctors would be recognized as the leading cause of death!)  

One of the most powerful and dramatic personal actions against corporate dominance of worldly affairs is to personally take responsibility for one’s own health & well-being; become somewhat educated regarding diet and various alternative medical systems, and personally escape the devastation of drugging that is the lot of many of the victims of the vastly profitable pharmaceutical medical paradigm and it’s doctors of death.  


[For a direct link, see: <http://www.asheville-computer.com/dave/altmedcon.htm>.]  

John Le Carre’s views are taken from a forward from The Spectator, which quotes an article from The Vancouver Sun (dated December 16, 2000 ).  


Le Carre “sickened” by crimes of unbridled capitalism  

John le Carre’s latest novel, The Constant Gardener, begins with the murder of Tessa Quayle, the wife of a British diplomat in Nairobi , who fell foul of a pharmaceutical giant. She was about to expose the cynical use of Africans as guinea pigs.  She died.  

Here, in an interview with The Spectator offered to The Vancouver Sun, the author explains why he is enraged at the behaviour of multinational drugs companies, and why, as he puts in the novel’s postscript, “by comparison with the reality, my novel was as tame as a holiday postcard.”  

By John le Carre:

From my very first book to this one, my central characters -- whether we’re talking about George Smiley or Justin Quayle in The Constant Gardener -- have been forced to ask themselves what they owe to Caesar and what they owe to their consciences.  Or so it seems to me now, with the bland assurance of hindsight.  In The Constant Gardener the search for a solution reaches its summation.  I seem to have written what the Germans would call a Bildungsroman -- a novel of searching and growing up.  And the recipient of that education, and ultimately its victim, is Justin Quayle, where in some earlier books it might have been George Smiley.  

Times have changed since the Cold War but not half as much as we might like to think. The Cold War provided the perfect excuse for Western governments to plunder and exploit the Third World in the name of freedom, to rig its elections, bribe its politicians, appoint its tyrants, and, by every sophisticated means of persuasion and interference, stunt the emergence of young democracies in the name of democracy.  Which is why many influential people in the United States , and in Russia too, would like nothing better than to put the clock back.  Bush versus Putin?  They’d love it.  So would Wall Street.  No more damned ecologists to worry about: this is war.  And no more arms control.  Let’s go for it.  

And while they did this -- whether in Southeast Asia , Central and South America , or Africa -- a ludicrous notion took root that we are saddled with to this day. It is a notion beloved of conservatives and, in my country, New Labour alike.  It makes Siamese twins of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and that rich liberal Oil Boy supposedly converted to conservation, Al Gore.  It holds to its bosom the conviction that, whatever profit-driven corporations do in the short term, they are ultimately motivated by ethical concerns, and their influence upon the world is therefore beneficial -- and so God help us all.  In the name of this deluded theory, we look on, apparently helpless, while rainforests are wrecked to the tune of millions of square miles every year, native agricultural communities are systematically deprived of their livelihoods, uprooted and made homeless, protesters are hanged and shot, the loveliest corners of the globe are invaded and desecrated, and tropical paradises are turned into rotting wastelands with sprawling, disease-ridden mega-cities at their centre.  

And of all these crimes of unbridled capitalism -- some of them, like the present oil war in central Sudan , bordering on genocide -- it seemed to me, as I began to cast round for a story to illustrate the argument, that the pharmaceutical industry offered me the most eloquent example.  I might have gone for the scandal of spiked tobacco, deliberately designed by Western manufacturers to cause addiction -- and cancer -- in communities already plagued with AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and poverty on a scale few of us can imagine.  I might have gone for the oil companies and the impunity with which Shell for instance triggered a vast human disaster in Nigeria , displacing tribes, polluting their land and causing an uprising that led to kangaroo courts and the shameful torture and execution of very brave men.  

But the pharmaceutical world, once I entered it, got me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go.  It had everything: the hopes and dreams we have of it; its vast, partly realized potential for good, and its pitch-dark underside, sustained by corporate cant, hypocrisy, corruption and greed.  And it is not only the obvious sins that the pharma giants have to answer for: the dumping of inappropriate or out-of-date medicines on people they reckon won’t know the difference; the arbitrary overpricing of their products, underpinned by the draconian exercise of patent rights. It is not the deliberate widening of a drug’s specifications at whatever cost to the patient in order to broaden its sales base -- so that, for instance, a drug that in Britain or the U.S. would be prescribed only for extreme cancer

pain is represented to Africans as a simple headache cure.  It is not even the suppression of contra-indications and side-effects, and the repeated campaigns, supported by the U.S. government, to halt the manufacture of generic drugs by countries that can’t afford inflated Western prices.  When the Thais wanted to manufacture their own generic drugs, for instance, the U.S. state department threatened to impose sanctions on the import of Thai timber.  

No, it’s bigger even than all that - and, in the long run, worse. The pharmas, whether they know it or not, are engaged in the systematic corruption of the medical profession, country by country.  Do we ever think to ask our GP, when he or she prescribes a drug for us, whether he or she is being paid by the drug company to prescribe it?  Of course we don’t.  It's our child.  Our wife.  It’s our heart or kidney or prostate.  Thank God, most doctors have refused the bait.  But others have not, with the consequence, in the worst cases, that their medical opinions are owned not by their patients but by their sponsors. 

Do we ever ask our governments to tell us what cash payments and benefits in kind are on offer to our doctors from the pharmaceutical companies -- the “seminars” and “training courses” in sunny holiday resorts, with free travel for yourself and your partner, and accommodation thrown in?  Do we ever ask our corner-street pharmacist when he hands us the latest new-blue, all-conquering headache cure, why it costs six times as much as a bottle of Aspirin, and what exactly it does that Aspirin can’t do?  

Mostly we are simply too diffident, too scared, too lazy, too polite. Do we ever ask ourselves just why the pharmas have taken to direct advertising, to us the public, over the heads of the medical profession?  Do we ever stop to wonder what happens to supposedly impartial academic Medical Research [Conflicts of Interest] when giant pharmaceutical companies donate whole biotech buildings and endow professorships at the universities and teaching hospitals where their products are tested and developed?

There has been a steady trickle of alarming cases in recent years where inconvenient scientific findings have been suppressed or rewritten, and those responsible for them hounded off their campuses with their professional and personal reputations systematically trashed by the machinations of public-relations agencies in the pay of the pharmas.  In The Constant Gardener I made an amalgam of these unfortunate cases and called them Lara. She is a chemical research scientist in Canada -- hounded by the pharma giant that hired her, and by the academic colleagues whose livelihoods, like hers, depend on its favour.   

Multiply those concerns by tens and you begin to understand the corrupting power of pharmaceutical companies when they operate in emerging countries and can delegate huge slush funds to local “managers” who know how to get a drug accepted by local officials and ministers.  Doubtless there are companies with clean records.  There are even a few genuine heroes among them.  But they are not my subject.  My subject -- and the subject of The Constant Gardener -- is the dilemma of decent people struggling against the ever-swelling tide of heedless corporate greed, and our own complacency in letting the corporations get away with it -- even, at government level, helping them to do so in the joint names of profit and full employment.  

Perhaps we do indeed need a great new movement, an international, humanitarian movement of decent men and women, that is not doctrinal, not political, not polemical, but gathers up the best in all of us: a Seattle demo without the broken glass.  

The mainstream Media, I decided as I went on my journey, have failed us completely, here and in the United States .  The subject is just too damned uncomfortable to handle; too complicated (often deliberately), too scientific for the layman.  Many hacks who should know better have been lunched, holidayed and bamboozled into silence.  Fake nostrums are taken as gospel.  For every new drug that reaches the market, the spinners assure us, $600 to $800 million have been spent in research and development.  Yet the companies’ accounts, where they are visible, rarely support these claims.  And many compounds are acquired by pharmaceutical companies after they have been partly developed at taxpayers’ expense.  

When we read that pharma giants have donated their products to the Third World , we think: so that’s all right then.  But it isn’t.  For one thing, the Third World doesn’t want to live on free handouts, and least of all of drugs that have been superseded in the West.  For another, we’re not talking philanthropy but profit, business expediency and market protection.  When a U.S. corporation donates medicines to the Third World , it gets a tax break, rids itself of the cost of warehousing old stock, and saves itself destruction costs.  It also gets to look like a saint.  Above all -- witness the “philanthropically donated” triple-therapy AIDS cocktail that has yet, in reality, to be donated -- their charity heads off the local manufacture of generic drugs than which, in the eyes of the donors, there is no greater evil.  To call it enlightened altruism is to do the pharmas a favour.  


The plot in John Le Carre's new novel The Constant Gardener is based in large part on a Canadian pharmaceutical scandal.  One of the characters, for example, is remarkably similar to Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a Canadian hematologist and whistle-blower of a major drug controversy.  Like Olivieri, Le Carre's creation, Lara Emrick, conducted clinical trials for a new wonder-drug.  

In the fictional version, Emrick was testing a new tuberculosis drug called Dypraxa, which she later discovers has lethal side-effects.  She blows the whistle on her bosses and suffers professional and personal consequences.  “She lives only with the monstrosity of her case and its hopeless insolubility,” Le Carre writes.  

Olivieri, a medical doctor at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, faced a similar fate after she was hired by the Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex in 1993 to conduct trials for a new drug for patients with the inherited blood disorder, thalassemia.  Olivieri was found by an independent review to have placed herself in a conflict of interest when she signed a restrictive contract with Apotex, but nevertheless reported her findings.  Emrick was prevented from exposing negative findings because she, too, signed a “wretched contract.”  “I trusted them.  I was a fool,” the character says.  Both Olivieri and Emrick received anonymous and threatening letters after they blew the whistle and in both cases, the writer was exposed using DNA testing of saliva on the envelope or stamp.  

In describing the tribulations of Emrick, Le Carre wrote at the end of the book that he drew on several cases:  “Particularly in the North American continent where highly qualified medical researchers have dared to disagree with their pharmaceutical paymasters and suffered vilification and persecution for their pains.”  

Health and Responsibility         Medical Organizations        

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Medical Research         Faith in Medical Doctors

Inexpensive Remedies         On the Other Hand         Mental Health



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