The Hypocrisy of U.S. Drug Policy
By Krystle Cole - March 22, 2007
The current United States nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska (1). The Department of Justice reported that at year-end 2003, 55% of the federal inmates were drug offenders (2). Assuming recent incarceration rates in the United States remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of every 20 Americans (5%) can be expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime (3). Somehow I don’t think that this number will contain many of the thousands of chemists that work for the pharmaceutical companies, or the doctors that receive “gifts” for prescribing these drugs off-label, or the political candidates that receive millions of dollars each year in campaign contributions.
When our elected government officials passed the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, they made it easier to access our personal information, like financial records. This would supposedly allow them to trace the drug money, find the terrorists, and make the world a safer place.
Well, in that same spirit, we should follow the “money trail”:
President George W. Bush was the number one recipient of drug industry money from 1997-2005, receiving $798,732 in campaign contributions (4).
Sixty-five percent of the pharmaceutical industry’s total political donations, almost $100 million, went to Republicans (4).
President George Bush Senior once headed both Pfizer and Eli Lilly from 1977 – 1979 (5).
The pharmaceutical industry is a billion dollar industry. They make a fortune off of prescriptions that are covered by government programs, i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, foster care, and the prison system. As the baby boomer generation ages, more children get started on pharm habits early, and the prison population continually rises, the potential for Big Pharma to profit from taxpayer funded programs keeps growing and growing.
Children in the foster care system are often given up to five different psychiatric drugs at the same time. One of these drugs is Ritalin, or Concerta, prescribed for ADHD. Ritalin is an addictive stimulant closely related to Cocaine. Hypothetically, if a drug dealer in the United States got caught selling a one month supply of cocaine to an eight year old, the dealer would go to jail, then get sentenced to triple the current mandatory minimum for selling a Schedule II Drug to a minor under the age of eighteen - The dealer would end up serving at least 15 years in prison.
Drug companies need to keep the elected officials that are in power on their side in order to stay on each state’s preferred drug list. Once a drug is added to the list, it is prescribed as a first line of treatment for all people whose prescriptions are covered by government programs. For Example, if Eli Lilly's one anti psychotic drug Zyprexa, was to be removed from the preferred drug list in Florida, the company would lose $70 million annually (6).
_________________"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root."
David Thoreau (1817-1862)
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