Bernie Sanders may have fallen out of the spotlight since conceding the Democratic election to Hillary Clinton, but he recently found himself back near the forefront the news cycle after a series of social media posts aimed at taking on greed in the pharmaceutical industry.
Sanders, a known advocate of natural medicine as well as healthy organic foods, took serious issue with prices for what he deemed a “life-saving” drug that costs nearly $200,000.
And, showing the power of social media yet again, Sanders’ posts have sent the company scrambling to respond in hopes of saving their image — and their stocks from tumbling further than they already have.
Time to “Stand Up to the Greed of The (Industry)”
While Sanders disappointed many of his supporters with his sudden, passionate about-face endorsement of opponent Hillary Clinton, he appears to be using his current platform to send a message to the former Secretary of State, as well as the drug companies she has become increasingly beholden to (Clinton has accepted the most cash from the industry by far).
“The time is long overdue for the American people to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said in a Facebook post recently.
The post drew considerable attention, but it’s a prior post (and tweet) that have caused the biggest stir thus far. Sanders took aim at Ariad Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, MA based company that sells a $199,000 drug for patients suffering from leukemia.
“The drug industry is getting very, very nervous…We are going to take them on and lower the cost of medication across this country,” Sanders said on his Facebook page. “They will not be allowed to charge $199,000 for a life-saving cancer drug.”
In the wake of his Facebook and tweet, stockholders of the company lost $387 million in one day according to Sanders’ page. According to CNBC, the company’s stock had been slightly up before tumbling as much as 7 percent. Shares went down as much as 15 percent in the week since the posts, the CNBC article reported.
Sanders along with Rep. Elijah Cummings had inquired about steep price hikes involving the drug, which had risen four times already this year.
The company responded by saying their pricing is necessary because of the huge amount of research that goes into the drug.
“Iclusig is the first drug that we have brought to market after years of risk taking and research, and it serves a very small and seriously ill group of cancer patients,” the company said in a statement, adding that it plans to respond to the letter.
Sanders and Cummings believe the pricing is evidence of the company’s “outrageous sales tactics” and show that it is “more concerned with its profit than with its patients.”
The company added that it spent 143 percent of its revenue in 2015 on research and development for drugs to treat rare types of cancer.
Lost in the shuffle are the potential risks of the drug: it was originally approved for a larger group of patients in December 2012 but was pulled because of “serious and life-threatening blood clots” as well as other side effects. The following year it was re-approved but only for a smaller group of patients.
A quick visit to Iclusig.com quickly brings up a warning pop-up showing a laundry list of side effects, with life-threatening blood clots as well as heart problems, neuropathy, severe bleeding, low blood cell counts and more listed as additional possible side effects.
Unfortunately as Mr. Sanders noted in his aforementioned social media post, the pharmaceutical industry does in fact own Washington, and it’s unlikely to get better soon unless more people are willing to challenge them on their price-gouging tactics or, perhaps better yet, opt out and learn to take control and responsibility for their own health.
While it’s understandable that leukemia patients would be willing to try a possible solution like Iclusig, which has millions of dollars of research and the life’s work of a company and its researchers behind it, the risks are spelled out in plain English on the company’s site, which leads many to wonder if the “cure” may actually be just as harmful as the disease itself.
In a perfect world Sanders and other political leaders would not simply take on the pharmaceutical companies but also share help to validate, protect and support natural healing modalities.
And instead of simply focusing on the current “drugs or bust” paradigm, they’d also find time to listen to the stories of natural cancer survivors (like this man who reversed his own leukemia using a key recipe from the Budwig Protocol and an regiment of micronutrient-dense juices and other foods).
In the meantime, the push continues (especially in California this election season, learn more here) for better fiscal responsibility among pharmaceutical companies that are among the the most profitable, and difficult to regulate, enterprises in the country.