U.S. Politics and the Economy

Big Pharma vs. The Sick and Poor

By Bonnie Weinstein

Yet again the pharmaceutical industry is proving that under capitalism, corporate profits come first, and the sick and poor will just have to pay up or die.

In an August 26, 2016 New York Times article by Katie Thomas, titled “Painted as EpiPen Villain, Mylan’s Chief Says She’s No Such Thing,”

“America has a new pharmaceutical villain. Her name is Heather Bresch.

“As the chief executive of Mylan, the owner of the severe allergy treatment EpiPen, Ms. Bresch is at the center of the latest public outrage over high drug prices, excoriated for overseeing a fourfold price increase on EpiPen while taking a huge pay raise. … her name is being mentioned alongside Martin Shkreli, the so-called Pharma Bro who ignited anger last fall over raising the price of the drug Daraprim, and J. Michael Pearson, the onetime McKinsey consultant who took over Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and sharply raised prices on lifesaving drugs.”

Bresch, the daughter of Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia and former governor, raised the price of the EpiPen that delivers life-saving Epinephrine to patients with severe allergies “to about $600.00 for a pack of two EpiPens, from about $100.00…. Still, she was unapologetic that Mylan’s actions were driven by profit. ‘I am running a business. I am a for-profit business. I am not hiding from that.’”

And according to the same article,

“The company also angered shareholders when it switched its headquarters to the Netherlands…. The move to the Netherlands in 2014, called an inversion, also reduced the company’s tax rate. Mylan is one of a string of pharmaceutical companies that have done inversions in recent years…. Ms. Bresch’s rising salary has also fueled anger over the EpiPen price increase. Since 2007, when EpiPen was acquired and she was the company’s chief operating officer, she earned about $2.5 million in total compensation. In 2015, her compensation was nearly $19 million.”

We also have to keep in mind that, according to a WTVM.COM, ABC9 article by Emilie Arroyo, dated August 24, 2016 titled, “EpiPen priced more than $600, while experts argue its medicinal value at $1,”

“‘It’s nothing in the world but Epinephrine which is just cheap as dirt,’ said Terry Hurley, Dinglewood owner and pharmacist.??Experts say EpiPens hold about $1 worth of Epinephrine, yet are now costing hundreds-of-dollars each. On top of that, pharmacists at Dinglewood and Columbus allergists say the device only lasts between six months and a year, then must be replaced.

“‘A lot of people don’t have insurance that have to have these. People who have children with peanut allergies are having to make decisions now whether to buy this or make a house payment,’ said Hurley.”

According to an earlier New York Times article by Katie Thomas dated August 24, 2016 titled, “The Complex Math Behind Drug Prices,”

“Many people are covered by health plans with large deductibles that require them to pay the full price of their drugs until they hit their limit, which can be thousands-of-dollars a year. And more plans are requiring patients who need expensive specialty drugs to contribute a percentage of the list price. Drug companies often help cover patients’ out-of-pocket costs through assistance programs, but not always.

“So patients who are the sickest and require the most expensive drugs are the most vulnerable to soaring drug prices.

“‘It’s sort of embedded in the healthcare system that the price is never the price, unless you’re a cash-paying customer,’…. ‘And in that case, we soak the poor.’”

The capitalists just collect the profits

This atrocity of gouging the poor for life-saving necessities exposes the very core of capitalism—a system where profits for the tiny few come before human needs.

None of the expenses of production comes out of corporate profits. All expenses are, in fact, paid for by the labor of the workers who produce the products; and who are also the consumers of these products.

None of the costs and expenses of business comes out of the pockets of the commanders of capital. To them, everything in the world is free—even the costs of war; the police; the schools; the prisons; the roads; trains, planes and automobiles and their taxes.

These are all expenses paid for by the labor of the working class and the taxes we are forced to pay out of our earnings.

Workers are paid only a tiny proportion—as little as the boss can get away with—of the actual wealth we produce through our labor. It’s factored in with all the other “expenses” on the production line. The prices are determined not only by compensating for these expenses, but also by calculating the desired profits the capitalists want and expect to see from the sale of these products—so they raise the price of the drugs as high as possible and lower the wages as much as possible to insure their profits.

Under capitalism wages are kept down

That’s the purpose of the “austerity plans” that are being forced upon workers all over the world. And that is the purpose of all the anti-labor laws that are being put into action everywhere we see workers fighting back—including war and police murder.

That’s why working class solidarity is the archenemy of capitalism.

That’s why there are laws like The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, also known as the Taft Hartley Act, which basically makes workers’ solidarity illegal. The Taft Hartley Act prohibits,

“…jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops…. It also requires union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government. Union shops are heavily restricted, and states are allowed to pass right-to-work laws that outlaw closed union shops. Furthermore, the executive branch of the federal government can obtain legal strikebreaking injunctions if an impending or current strike imperils the national health or safety.”1

These laws are in place because the capitalist class knows that ultimately, a united working class is far more powerful than they are.

We don’t need the capitalists to be able to produce the things we need and want.

We could all have free housing, education, healthcare, food, clothing, and entertainment—anything we can imagine—under a socialist society.

Socialism is a system that puts the needs, wants and passions of people, and the health of the planet, and all the life on it, first.

By uniting together we can finally end the barbaric, profit-driven system of capitalism—the last vestige of slavery—that is plundering and destroying the planet.

Through socialism—acting and working together democratically for the good of all—we have the power to change the world and create endless possibilities.

1 Labor Management Relations Act of 1947