Over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten story after story about gigantic pharmaceutical corporation fines. Novartis, $420 million. Abbott Laboratories, $1.5 billion. GlaxoSmithKline $3 billion. Pfizer, $11 billion in a combination of fines. We, the public, are supposed to be happy, even ecstatic, about it. But I see no cause for celebration.
It looks more like a cover-up than a genuine attempt to deal with malfeasance.
The crimes involved are ones of severe aggression. These companies have perpetrated attacks on millions of humans with their products—and these corporations are fully aware of what they’ve done. People die from their products, but not a single person has been punished for it.
All that’s happened is fines for the corporations, and those fines are nothing more than a cost of doing business. It gives the impression of punishment and leaves a sense that they’ll do better in the future. It makes people believe that they’ll think twice before doing it again. Besides, even with a bad reputation, Big Pharma keeps selling its products as if they were as popular as movie stars.
When was the last time we heard one of these pharmaceutical corporations suffering a net loss? And why would they? In every case, the fines are less than the profits they’ve made from the drugs that resulted in the fines! The Guardian reports that, for the term covered by the fine, Glaxo made $10.4 billion in Avandia sales, $11.6 billion in Paxil sales, and $5.9 billion in Wellbutrin sales, for a total income of $27.9 billion from these products alone.
Glaxo’s profits for the first 9 months of 2012 were about $9.6 billion. Glaxo’s profits for a single quarter are bigger than the $3 billion fine.
The relatively low fines, though, isn’t the worst of it. Where does that money go? To all those people who’ve been harmed? To the families of people who’ve died? Not a single penny. They go to government coffers. How many more boondoggles will those fines support? They certainly won’t go towards lowering your taxes.
These fines are nothing more than a show. They give an impression of bringing pharmaceutical giants to heel, but nothing of the sort is accomplished.
Frankly, no fine is adequate to stop the kind of malfeasance Big Pharma perpetrates every day on millions of people. Their products are maiming and killing people! How can a fine suffice as punishment? Why aren’t the guilty people brought to trial? These are attacks on human beings, not simply fraud against their savings.
The people who are harmed, whose lives are destroyed, whose careers are devastated, whose futures are lost, whose families lose their companionship and support—these people see nothing of those fines. Worse, there is no motivation on the part of the drug giants to do things differently. Lives will continue to be destroyed, as long as people’s lives aren’t even considered to have as much value as the government and insurance coffers that are defrauded.
Fines are a slap in the face to those who’ve been harmed. They are nothing more than another demonstration of the collusion between government and Big Pharma, not to mention other industries that get the same treatment.
The business of business is the only thing understood by either corporations or governments in thrall to them. It will not be compromised, no matter how much harm is brought to people. Not until people are brought to justice for the harms done by pharmaceutical corporations will anything change. Corporations are composed of people. People make the decisions that result in drug fraud that results in death and disability. Allowing people to hide behind a corporate front is the same as condoning murder.
Because that’s what it is—murder for profit. Not a crime of passion, but cold blooded murder with complete indifference to the victims. When our governments address the issue of pharmaceutical malfeasance in the proper terms of people’s lives, then I’ll be impressed. Fines are a farce, a slap in the face of their victims.