Pharmaceutical Industry Financial Penalties, 1991-2017. Credit and source
A new report from Public Citizen concludes that the number and size of federal and state settlements against the pharmaceutical industry remained low in 2016 and 2017, with federal criminal penalties nearly disappearing. Financial penalties continued to pale in comparison to company profits, with the $38.6 billion in penalties from 1991 through 2017 amounting to only 5% of the $711 billion in net profits made by the 11 largest global drug companies during just 10 of those 27 years (2003-2012). To our knowledge, a parent company has never been excluded from participation in Medicare and Medicaid for illegal activities, which endanger the public health and deplete taxpayer-funded programs. Criminal prosecutions of executives leading companies engaged in these illegal activities have been extremely rare. Much larger penalties and successful prosecutions of company executives that oversee systemic fraud, including jail sentences if appropriate, are necessary to deter future unlawful behavior. Otherwise, the illegal but profitable activities will continue to be part of companies’ business model.
Almost all new drugs approved for Britain’s National Health Service do more harm than good, according to a study using modelling adopted by the government, reports The Times (London). Saving a life with a new drug can cost about twice as much as doing the same through more staff or equipment, according to official calculations that led to calls for reform of the way the NHS pays for medicines. The Department of Health and Social Care has implicitly conceded that the cost of most cutting-edge medicines kills more people through diverting money from other NHS services than the treatments themselves save.
Reuters reports that U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief, Scott Gottlieb, criticized pharmacy benefit managers, health insurers and drug makers for “Kabuki drug-pricing constructs” that profit the industry at the expense of consumers. The comments, made at a conference organized by a leading U.S. health insurer lobbying group, stoked speculation over what steps the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump may take to rein in lofty prescription drug costs. “Patients shouldn’t face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, and pay money where the primary purpose is to help subsidize rebates paid to a long list of supply chain intermediaries,” Gottlieb said at the meeting of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). “Sick people aren’t supposed to be subsidizing the healthy.”
Since the mass killing at a Parkland, Fla., high school earlier this month, many teachers have called on their state pension funds to sell their stakes in gun-makers, reports National Public Radio. Private investment firms including BlackRock and Blackstone are reviewing their firearms investments in response to clients’ demands. “I’m currently urging my colleagues to divest in retail and wholesale suppliers of weapons that are banned for possession or sale in the state of California,” says State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the boards of his state’s two largest pension funds — CalPERS for public employees and CalSTRS for teachers. “We can make a clear and powerful signal that the inaction by Congress is heartless, it’s intolerable, and there are people who want to make sure that kids aren’t losing their lives,” Chiang says.
The Washington Post reports that Dick’s Sporting Goods will no longer sell assault-style firearms, will ban high-capacity magazines and will not sell any guns to people younger than 21, the company announced Wednesday, a significant move for the retail giant in the midst of renewed calls for national gun reform. Chief executive Edward W. Stack made the announcement during an appearance on “Good Morning America”, as well as through a company statement that said “thoughts and prayers are not enough” in the wake of America’s latest mass shooting. Two weeks ago, a gunman killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, in Parkland, Fla., with an AR-15 that was legally purchased. The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, bought a shotgun from a Dick’s store in November, Stack said during the television interview.
Bank of America Corp became the latest financial heavyweight to take aim at gunmakers, saying it would ask clients who make assault rifles how they can help end mass shootings like last week’s massacre at a Florida high school, writes Reuters. Bank of America, the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, said its request to makers of the military-style weapons was in line with those taken by other financial industry companies to help prevent deadly gun rampages. “An immediate step we’re taking is to engage the limited number of clients we have that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility,” the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said in a statement.
Steve Lukes’ Three-Dimensional View of Power credit
The Global Burden of Disease estimates that approximately a third of deaths worldwide are attributable to behavioral risk factors that, at their core, have the consumption of unhealthful products and exposures produced by profit driven commercial entities, write Joana Madureira Lima and Sandro Galea in a new report in Globalization and Health. They use Steven Lukes’ three-dimensional view of power (see above) to guide the study of the practices deployed by commercial interests to foster the consumption of these commodities. They propose a framework to systematically study corporations and other commercial interests as a distal, structural, societal factor that causes disease and injury. Their framework offers a systematic approach to mapping corporate activity, allowing public health researchers to anticipate and prevent actions that may have a deleterious effect on population health. They conclude that their framework may be used by, and can have utility for, public health practitioners, researchers, students, activists and other members of civil society, policy makers and public servants in charge of policy implementation. It can also be useful to corporations who are interested in identifying key actions they can take towards improving population health.