Big Pharma’s Influence in Shaping the U.S. Medical Model

Big Pharma’s Influence in Shaping the U.S. Medical Model

The United States is the most medicated country in the world, with 70 percent of Americans using at least one prescription drug daily. The U.S. also has the highest rates of obesity, heart disease, childhood illness, and autoimmune disease, yet it often touts its health care and medical research as the best in the world.1

The medical model in the U.S. focuses on addressing the symptoms of disease and illness through the widespread use of pharmaceutical products rather than dealing with the root causes of disease. Lifestyle choices are rarely addressed and alternative forms of medicine are often mocked, despite most of them being around for decades to centuries longer than western medicine. Although diet has long been known to play a significant role in maintaining good health, medical doctors receive relatively little training on the topic of nutrition—on average only 19.6 hours throughout their entire 15,000 hours of education.2

To understand how the “pill for every ill” approach became the underpinning of the U.S. medical model, it is important to understand two factors—the history of how allopathic medicine practiced by medical doctors came to dominate health care in the U.S., and the fact that pharmaceutical companies provide a significant source of funding for medical school education and textbooks.

Rockefeller Capitalized on Oil Industry by Creating Pharmaceuticals

During the first half of the 19th century in the U.S., much of the model for health care was based around natural and holistic approaches such as herbs, homeopathy, and chiropractic care.3 In the early part of the 20th century, European pharmaceutical companies in the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and the U.S. were expanding their product lines.

The oil industry was booming and German pharmaceutical companies had begun developing synthetic vitamins out of petroleum byproducts known as petrochemicals. Billionaire John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil, recognized the opportunity to further expand markets for the oil industry by using petrochemicals to make pharmaceutical drugs and synthetic vitamins and  purchased German pharmaceutical company Farben, now known as Bayer.4

The Flexner Report Eliminates Majority of Natural Healing Doctors and Education

In partnership with Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller hired Abraham Flexner, who released the “Flexner Report” in 1910, which reshaped the practice of medicine in America forever. Flexner himself had attended Johns Hopkins University and had developed a distaste for “nonconformist” approaches to health and healing, which he deemed as “quackery.”5 His report concluded that there were too many doctors and medical schools in the U.S. and that natural healing modalities were unscientific and he advocated for their closure.6

The Flexner Report was then submitted to Congress and later adopted as law. Any medical school that agreed to adopt the scientific paradigm-focused recommendations outlined in the Flexner Report received large grants from the Rockefeller Foundation. Through this funding, virtually all other traditional healing arts were eliminated and, by 1930, only 76 percent of the 168 existing schools educating physicians remained.5

Boundaries Between Big Pharma and Medical Field “Hard to Disentangle”

Fast forward to the present and it is obvious that there are many blurred lines between medical care and the pharmaceutical industry. Not only do pharmaceutical companies continue to provide outsized funding of medical schools, medical textbooks, and medical associations, the pharmaceutical industry also spends a lot of money funding the legacy and online digital media, as well as U.S. lawmakers at the state and federal level.

“The truth is, it’s hard to disentangle medical education from whatever the prevailing culture is in medicine, including ways of thinking or beliefs of the day about diagnosis or treatment,” said Elia Ai Jaoude, MD, a psychiatrist who also went through medical school “And currently, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries continue to have much influence over the shaping of beliefs.”7

Opioid Crisis is Prime Example of Pharmaceutical Industry Influence

A recent example of how the pharmaceutical industry influences the practice of medicine is the opioid crisis, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and even more lives impacted by addiction. For years, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry set out to wage an aggressive marketing campaign in which they intentionally lied to and misled physicians about the safety of opioids and the potential for addiction. Harvard Professor and former editor-in-chief for the New England Journal of Medicine Marcia Angell, MD said in 2009:

Drug manufacturers paid doctors and movie stars to promote more aggressive pain treatment. The companies also created campaigns for their sales forces, tying bonuses to opioid sales and holding contests to reward top earners.8

Johnson & Johnson Reps Gave Prizes to Doctors Prescribing High Numbers of Opioids

One pharmaceutical company that promoted aggressive pain treatment using opioids was Johnson & Johnson, which courts of law found created PowerPoint presentations promising prizes for physicians who sold the highest amounts of their extended-release opioid Nucynta (tapentadol). Prizes included Caribbean Cruises and Sony home theater systems.8

Courts Deem Pharmaceutical Company Marketing as “False, Misleading, and Dangerous”

Federal judges throughout the country have ruled against various pharmaceutical companies for their aggressive and misleading marketing, including an Oklahoma judge who stated that Johnson & Johnson had engaged in “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” causing “exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths” and opioid-addicted babies.8

Throughout the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing campaigns, from 1997 to 2002, pain relief prescriptions in the U.S. increased from roughly 670,000 prescriptions to 6.2 million prescriptions.8 Attorney John Brownlee pointed out that Oxycontin was mostly about making money for pharmaceutical companies:

The genesis of OxyContin was not the result of good science or laboratory experiment. OxyContin was the child of marketeers and bottom line financial decision making.8

Physician’s Trust in Drug Companies Begins in Medical School

According to Joel Lexchin, MD, who was once an emergency room physician and now teaches health policy, the issue of physician trust in the pharmaceutical industry stems back to medical school. Dr. Lexchin wrote a book on the topic entitled Doctors in Denial: Why Big Pharma and the Canadian Medical Profession Are Too Close For Comfort.7

In his book, Dr. Lexchin outlined the many ethical dilemmas that arise from the entanglement between medical school students and the drug industry, including the companies paying university educators and the development of relationships with students early—which has been shown to impact the doctors prescribing habits, the co-authoring of biased textbooks, and research funding and findings that may be skewed in a drug company’s favor.

Medical  School Research Funded by Big Pharma

Dr. Lexchin said that even when funding seems charitable, it is not uncommon for drug companies to benefit because they are promoting research in particular areas with a particular slant to them. He gave the example of a pharmaceutical company interested in developing a product to treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The funding would likely not go toward researching the sexual practices of teenagers, but rather toward researching STI antibiotics, which would help sell treatment drugs. Dr. Lexchin added:

The pharmaceutical industry level of resources means that other voices and other kinds of research may be drowned out.7

While medical schools maintain that drug industry funding helps to promote quality education, Dr. Lexchin believes that drug companies should not play any role in shaping what and how future physicians learn and says that medical schools are environments ripe for influence.6

Harvard Professor Says Relationship Between Big Pharma and Medical Schools is Increasingly Entangled

In 2000, Dr. Angell, in her position as a senior lecturer in Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, asked, Is Academic Medicine for Sale?8 Dr. Angell described the evolution of the relationship between medical schools and the pharmaceutical industry,  a relationship she said has only grown to be increasingly entangled and too intimate since the late 20th century. She cited a poll in which 94 percent of physicians surveyed acknowledged receiving financial compensation of some form from pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Angell also cited the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 in which Congress voted to allow universities to patent discoveries that stem from federally funded research, and then license those discoveries exclusively to companies in return for royalties. This 1980 Act created a financial incentive for universities to aim for discoveries that were likely to benefit the pharmaceutical industry, rather than the public at large. In her address, Dr. Angell stated:

Drug companies [do not] aim to educate doctors, except as a means to the primary end of selling drugs. Drug companies don’t have education budgets; they have marketing budgets from which their ostensibly educational activities are funded.8

She went on to outline reform steps that would need to be taken in order to restore integrity with the profession and stated the need for the profession to wean itself from industry money. Dr. Angell concluded:

You are not entitled to anything you want just because you’re very smart. Conflicts of interest in academic medicine have serious consequences, and it is time to stop making excuses for them.8


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Click here to view References:

1 Gallant A. A growing number of Americans report taking prescription medications daily. Civic Science Jan. 11, 2023.
2 Colino S. How much do doctors learn about nutrition? U.S. News and World Report Dec. 7, 2016.
3 Pharmaphorum. A history of the pharmaceutical industry. Sept. 1, 2020.
4 Schmidt E. How Rockefeller created the business of western medicine. Meridian Health Clinic Dec. 27, 2019.
5
Simpson JK. The five eras of Chiropractic & the future of chiropractic as seen through the eyes of a participant observer. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies Jan. 19, 2012.
6 Stahnisch F, Verhoef M. The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry in North America in the 20th Century. Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine Dec. 26, 2012.
7 Hensley L. Big pharma pours millions into medical schools—here’s how it can impact education. Global News Aug. 12, 2019.
8 Angell M. Is academic medicine for sale? Boston Review June 26, 2012.

 

13 Responses to "Big Pharma’s Influence in Shaping the U.S. Medical Model"

  1. Tom   January 24, 2023 at 9:40 am

    All good reason to avoid modern stone-age medicine and drugs.

    Reply
  2. Fowell the $   January 24, 2023 at 11:07 am

    I suffered with allergies.
    After I 🛑 stop eat refined sugar, bleached flour, artificial color, sweetener, flavors.
    My allergies went away.
    No more 💊💉!

    Reply
  3. paula   January 24, 2023 at 11:27 am

    Wonderful article.
    If published elsewhere, say on a website of the history of modern medicine, I would love to share.
    Posting something from The Vaccine Reaction, sorry but true, immediately gets responses from asleep at the wheel people:
    “Oh, this is an anti-vaccine article. Rubbish. Conspiracy Theory.” And it does not get read.

    I’ve spent 32 years studying vaccine research and trying to plant seeds that ‘hey, maybe these jabs aren’t all the wonderful science they are marketed to be’ and watching the atmosphere of vaccine culture change drastically in this 30+ years.

    Anti-vaccine? Term coined by pharmaceutical industry to protect their interests.

    Reply
  4. Colorado   January 24, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Prohibition of the poppy itself is the root cause of this problem, please allow me to explain. The medical industrial complex went from arguing against snake oil, to becoming the proprietary patented purveyor of new more potent snake oil, for extreme profits. Natural practitioners whom argued against the formation of the FDA called this decades and decades ago, the inevitable conflict of interest would rule the day, medicine focused around healing would be lost, patient doctor confidentiality would be abolished. And here we are, bonus on the side we also get to be exploited by a full range of major corporations simply for trying to visit the doctors offices. Modern medicine does not create cures, they create customers, then they pimp out and monetize all patient data relating to health events. Even now it gets worse as the pharmasuetical complex engages in coordinated collusion and racketeering with socialistic interests, profiteers and pirateers, to normalize totalitarian fascist engagements such as instituting vaccine passports, an absurd concept only a true idiot could support.

    People need drugs though, it’s just human nature and has been an ongoing event since time immemorial, human beings take drugs. I’d rather have pure poppy sourced opium than what these hacks are pushing, it would be safer, and could be grown from home. The reason there are so many overdose occurrences is not because humans are using more opium than in any time in history, because we are not, that is not happening, previous use was monumental compared to now. The reason so many overdoses are occurring is the prohibition has resulted in increased potency of the product, otherwise all those people dying of opium overdose would have simply been zoinked out on three dollar cough syrup with codeine, or if they did engage with more pure forms of poppy derivatives, could have scaled up and done so responsibly. Instead, due to prohibition, the novice pain management patient is thrust immediately into top tier deadly consequence use patterns.

    ‘Opium for the masses’. A free ebook you should read. People should know you can grow poppies from simple poppy seeds you buy at the grocery store for flavoring your foods, or pick them wild in various fields around the world. It’s the same thing as prescriptions, except not refined and nowhere near as potent. SSRI’s anti depressants and uptake inhibitors are another level of lunatic we can dive into that concept of rewiring your brain rather than simply dulling pain effects later, if you even manage to live that long, nearly 3 out of 4 of you reading this being on such mad scientist dangerous concoctions. Have a damned beer and smoke a joint if you have a problem, or acquire some codeine, stop popping high potency condensed opium pills like a heroine addict. If you want to end the medical industrial pharmasuetical industrial insurance industrial complex, you simply have to revisit prohibition of the poppy flower so this amazing medicine which has been used by humans in scale for several millennia, can once again be delivered freely and low priced in various low potency forms back to the general market.

    This book is available free here and there, have to track it down. Or just buy the actual book.
    https://www.amazon.com/Opium-Masses-Harvesting-Natures-Medication-ebook/dp/B004URM3DG

    “Contrary to general belief, there is no federal law against growing P. somniferum.”—Martha Stewart Living

    “Regarded as ‘God’s own medicine,’ preparations of opium were as common in the Victorian medicine cabinet as aspirin is in ours. As late as 1915, pamphlets issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were still mentioning opium poppies as a good cash crop for northern farmers. Well into this century, Russian, Greek, and Arab immigrants in America have used poppy-head tea as a mild sedative and a remedy for headaches, muscle pain, cough, and diarrhea. During the Civil War, gardeners in the South were encouraged to plant opium for the war effort, in order to ensure a supply of painkillers for the Confederate Army. What Hogshire has done is to excavate this vernacular knowledge and then publish it to the world—in how-to form, with recipes.”— Michael Pollan

    First published fifteen years ago, Opium for the Masses instantly became a national phenomenon. Michael Pollan wrote a lengthy feature (“Opium, made easy”) about Jim Hogshire in Harper’s Magazine, amazed that the common plant, P. somniferum, or opium poppies, which grows wild in many states and is available at crafts and hobby stores and nurseries, could also be made into a drinkable tea that acts in a way similar to codeine or Vicodin.

    With Opium for the Masses as their guide, Americans can learn how to supplement their own medicine chest with natural and legal pain medicine, without costly and difficult trips to the doctor and pharmacy.

    Reply
  5. Brion   January 24, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    During the 1800s, there were a variety of medical sects vying for a healthcare market share in the United States. Homeopaths, eclectics, naturopaths, and osteopaths, as well as the so-called “regular” orthodox medical practitioners, all were stakeholders in shaping the dominant health care paradigm.
    In 1847 medical practitioners organized the American Medical Association with the primary goals of standardizing medical education and instituting a program of medical ethics.
    By 1849, the AMA had taken on the role of investigating the various competing sects of medicine and challenging them on the basis of their ethics.
    In 1895 Daniel David (D. D.) Palmer, founded the chiropractic profession and faced a plan of containment and elimination by the American Medical Association (AMA) that continued for nearly a century. It took an antitrust lawsuit filed against the AMA in 1976 to reveal the magnitude and scope of the AMA’s plan.
    Despite generations of organized medical opposition, chiropractors did what most other groups of professionals failed to do: they maintained a separate and distinct identity from the practice of medicine while growing in an otherwise hostile environment created by the AMA and its component state associations.
    The AMA took the position that the other forms of medicine, including the newly discovered chiropractic profession, were unethical and “unscientific. Many Americans make the argument that the AMA’s intent was to decrease competition for financial reasons rather than to protect the public from unethical practitioners. Medical doctors from this fledgling group broadcast the message that their practice alone was scientifically based, despite the fact that their approach to medicine was no more scientific than that of the competing professions. This claim, however, was an important first step in marginalizing other professions as “unscientific” or “pseudoscientific” and allowed this sect of medicine to organize and professionalize quickly and eventually exert a massive influence on all aspects of health care policy in this country for generations.
    Not coincidentally, the AMA’s efforts resulted in the transformation of American medicine from a modest, even menial profession into one of sovereignty, power, and financial affluence sustained by Federal Tax dollars, millionaires and billionaire contributions  from the philanthropic and corporate sectors. By convincing state legislators that their profession was scientific while all others were not, the AMA and its state member associations were able to gain protection in the form of endorsement for educational programs and laws that limited “irregular” practice. The system of schools and hospitals, as well as the legislation protecting them, led to a “golden age of doctoring” that lasted until the 1970s. Orthodox or “allopathic” medicine enjoyed virtually complete dominance of the health care market in the United States. With the exception of chiropractors, competing professions shrank to nonexistence or were absorbed into the orthodox medical profession, as in the case of osteopaths.
    Palmer had established a unique theory about the nature of disease and emphasized the role of the patient’s body and its innate healing ability, rather than doctors’ or big pharma treatments, as the key to health.
    In 1906, recognizing the need for a protective organization of their own, chiropractic leaders founded the Universal Chiropractors’ Association, primarily to provide legal representation for chiropractors facing legal persecution.
    In 1907, however, Wisconsin v. Morikubo found the first gap in organized medicine’s armor. Chiropractor Shegataro Morikubo was arrested for practicing osteopathy and medicine without a license. The trial ended in the legal establishment of chiropractic as a separate and distinct profession from medicine and osteopathy, largely on the basis of chiropractic’s unique philosophy that the power that made the body has the power to heal the body.
    Records exposed during the discovery phase of the Chester C. A. Wilk et al. v. AMA et al. case showed that medical doctors were encouraged by the AMA to accuse chiropractors of ethical violations.
    All the while, the AMA waged an ongoing campaign against chiropractors, using the popular media, medical journals, and any other source that could be used to describe chiropractic as a “cult”.
    In 1963, the AMA’s plan to ensconce it’s medical monopoly and undermine chiropractic became even more organized with the establishment of the Committee on Quackery. This AMA committee adopted a plan that was devised in 1962 by the Iowa Medical Society under the leadership of Robert B. Throckmorton. The so-called “Iowa Plan” outlined the “containment of the chiropractic profession” that “will result in the decline of the only formidable competitor to the USA medical monopoly “.
    The massive scope and methodical nature of this plan were exposed in hundreds of thousands of pages of AMA documents that were brought to light in the 1976 trial Chester C. A. Wilk et al. v. AMA et al. AMA writers ghostwrote television and movie scripts, as well as Ann Landers’. Fake news and social media restrictions today, have made these earlier and older methods appear sophomoric.
    In 1987, just 34 years ago, a United States District Judge Susan Getzendanner found the AMA and its codefendants guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. In her decision, Getzendanner asserted that “the AMA decided to contain and eliminate chiropractic as a profession” and that it was the AMA’s intent “to destroy a competitor” In her decision, Getzendanner asserted that “the AMA decided to contain and eliminate chiropractic as a profession” and that it was the AMA’s intent “to maintain it’s monopoly on US healthcare”.
    In the past year with new founded fear of a novel viruse and variants, the medical dogma is seeking to once again to reestablish a monopoly on USA healthcare. Even though science proves nutrition, exercise, hygiene, civil engineering and alternative health care measures all improve natural immunity, vaccination is being touted as the “only scientific cure” available and miraculously can only be administered through a medical practitioner. Free Americans continue to resist the draconian practitioners of medicine with its failed dogma of germ theory.

    Reply
  6. Jean Schumer   January 24, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you so much for pointing out the history of allopathic medicine. I learned some of this history a few years ago which made complete sense to me. My children had adverse reactions to their vaccines and many pharma drugs that their pediatrician prescribed when they were babies. I roo, had also always been sensitive to pharma drugs my whole life.. Having children made me do research and was happy to find that changing to a clean healthy diet and natural medicine made such a vast difference., it would lead to no viruses, colds or flus and great health.. I also found out about the toxicity associated with dental materials and how this had a negative effect on my immune system and sensitivity which I resolved by removing toxic dental materials. . Thank you for everything you do to educate us and god bless you!.

    Reply
  7. Sally   January 24, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    This is very well written and really helps articulate what I’ve known for 40 years but couldn’t really explain why. I’ve always preferred natural medicine, but suffered discrimination from insurance companies as well as most people’s opinion of it as quackery. It all reached a head during the pandemic.

    Reply
  8. CATRYNA WHITE   January 24, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    Rockefeller medical practices could never be considered excellent. They are built on lies and superstition.

    Reply
  9. Jenn   January 24, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    Shameful , but not surprising sadly! Avoid pharms at all costs!!

    Reply
  10. Laura Borst   January 24, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    It’s interesting that some of these pharmaceutical corporations were spun out of I.G. Farben, which was a Nazi chemical conglomerate. Some synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, including psychiatric drugs, are chemically related to pesticides. Many of these pesticides were derived from poison gases that were used in WWI, according to the book “Mad in America”(www dot madinamerica dot com). And German Nazi psychiatrist Ernst Rudin received an award from Adolf Hitler for his “theory” of “the genetic cause” of “schizophrenia”, which also has been promoted in late 20th and 21st century North America. Also, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company has had dealings with Nazis. There was also a eugenics movement in the U.S. and Britain before WWII, and many of these eugenicists did business with Nazi Germany. It’s best to use natural remedies first, except in extreme emergencies,for most health problems. There is also a depopulation movement among the elites to get rid of people who might rise up against them.

    Reply
  11. Kela   January 25, 2023 at 9:16 am

    My own research of the claims in the first paragraph of this article found several discrepancies. It is correct that the U.S. is the most medicated country, and that more money is spent in America on medications. Source: nicerx.com.

    The U.S. ranks 2nd in mortality rated from heart diseases.
    Source: healthsystemtracker.org

    The 3rd statement, saying that the U.S. ranks highest in childhood illnesses could not be verified, and is likely untrue given the disparity of access to medical care throughout the world.

    Finally, regarding autoimmune diseases, an interesting factoid was found. In developed countries where children are exposed to LESS infections and less bacteria, there are higher rates of allergies and autoimmune diseases.
    Source: fxmed.co.nz

    Reply
  12. Data Detective   January 26, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    Paula:
    I also don’t forward NVIC articles
    However I check the reference for good conclusion, under stand able, unbiased information.

    Reply
  13. Barbara J.   January 27, 2023 at 3:17 pm

    The medicine wagons are now made fun of by some M.D.’s, yet they did not have TV to advertise their “snake oils” which was echinacea roots (common name:purple cone flower) tincture to treat poisonous snake bites. Yes, we have all the Pharm commercials that make the cost of the Pharm Meds much more expensive. Many countries do not allow Pharm products advertised on TV.

    Reply

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