By Yelena Sukhoterina
Remember Jim Carrey’s Tweets about “greening our vaccines?” that led to a firestorm of controversy on social media?
His opinions were backed by undeniable evidence, and yet Carrey is still taking heat.
On July 17, 2015 he turned to Medium.com, a social journalism/blog platform to expound on his views. In the article “Safety and Civil Liberties: Is Corporate Clout Calling the Shots?” Carrey states that vaccines can potentially save lives, but also says that they have potential hazards, and like the rest of personal healthcare — they should be a personal choice.
Carrey added another important point to the ongoing discussion – just how much are our lawmakers influenced by the pharmaceutical lobbyists when making big health decisions for us?
“Laws that force parents to substitute their own judgment for that of a politician are particularly worrisome when that politician may rely on the very corporations that produce these vaccines to support their campaigns,” Carrey said.
Lobbyists Decide Your Health Rights
It’s no secret that politicians from congressmen to presidential candidates receive money from lobbyists that influence every decision that they make. Health is the third most lobbied issue behind federal budget and taxes, with 1,419 lobbyists reported working in Washington in 2014.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline makes at least 13 vaccines, most of them were approved recently between the years 2002 and 2013; it spent $4,370,000 last year, and its most active years were between 2007 and 2009 with an average of $8 million spend each of those years.
Lobbying is a profitable career. Most lobbyists earn $100,000, and some up to $176,000. That’s as much or sometimes even more than a Congressman’s salary.
In fact, some congressmen such as Jim Moran have been in the news in the past saying that their salary was not high enough to provide for their family, as reported by US News.
Where is Moran now? He is working for the lobbying firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge. In fact, 64% of those who left Congress in 2014 found themselves a job with a lobbying firm or client, as reported by the Center for Responsible Politics.
A good example of how lobbyists control Washington comes from a report by Washington Post from 2007. The House was considering implementing a change to the Medicare program to help reduce drug costs for seniors. However, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House representatives decided against that because they believed the pharmaceutical industry would not let it pass.
The drug companies spent millions of dollars to prevent the program from passing; just in one month the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $1 million on advertising to influence everyone to believe that the existing Medicare program works well.
“You can hardly swing a cat by the tail in Washington without hitting a pharmaceutical lobbyist,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley.
Big Pharma and Politicians are Practically Inseparable
Lobbyists do a lot more than create successful and biased advertisement campaigns. They are quick to make friends with any newly elected government senator by providing them with transportation on corporate jets, as reported by USA Today.
Pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corporation, for example, flew out Sen. Bill Frist a couple of times in November 2015, at the same time as the company was fighting against potential greater federal regulation caused by increased concerns about the safety of its drug supplies.
“(Lobbyists) win more than they should. The one thing they have going for them is money,” said James Love, director of Consumer Project on Technology.
PBS’s Frontline did an interview with Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine to discuss the rising prices and rising use of pharmaceuticals.
Angell goes on the record saying that since 1997 pharmaceutical companies no longer have to warn the consumers about all side effects. They can push direct-to-consumer advertising that will say how the drug can help, but omit how it can hurt by instead saying “ask your doctor.”
She also explains that the drugs companies have been creating a cheaper synthetic version of every known medication, yet inflating the prices that we pay for them; most consumers have no idea how much their drugs actually cost.
“More people are taking more drugs. This too is a part of promotion and marketing. For all of life’s discontents, according to the pharmaceutical industry, there is a drug and you should take it. Then for the side effects of that drug, then there’s another drug, and so on. So we’re all taking more drugs, and more expensive drugs,” said Angell.
So if we see this trend in the pills that we take – we see drug companies pushing more drugs for us to ingest without fully understanding or even knowing the side effects for the sake of money?
Is it then possible, that the same thing is happening to the vaccines as Carrey is saying?
And when another politician signs a controversial bill that affects the health and wellbeing of our people, ask yourself, did they make this choice for our benefit or their pockets and political career?
The Atlantic published an informative article earlier this year called “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy” that explains how lobbying evolved through history into what it is today, and how did it get so much power.
Because the article is not directly related to health, it was not quoted here, but it can be an excellent source to understand how lobbyists influence what stance any politician takes on an issue, including health issues that affect us all like vaccines.
As the author Lee Drutman writes, “The self-reinforcing quality of corporate lobbying has increasingly come to overwhelm every other potentially countervailing force.”
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