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Big Pharma: Friend or Foe?



What is Big Pharma?


Big Pharma is a conspiracy in which many believe that the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are working together to influence consumer decision and product prices. Moreover, it is one of the largest and most powerful industries in the world, bringing in over $1 trillion in 2014. Big Pharma controls products ranging from implants to OTC drugs. These companies reap huge profits over prescribed drugs, thus causing pharmaceutical companies to make more profit than companies focusing on medical devices.


Who is involved in Big Pharma?


The five largest companies in terms of revenue as of 2020 are GlaxoSmithKline ($43.54B), Merck ($46.84B), Novartis ($47.45B), Roche ($50B), and Pfizer ($51.75B). The total worth of these pharmaceutical companies in 2019 was 1.3 trillion, but the top 10 pharma companies made up $392.5 billion, or nearly one third of the total. These companies have created many of the most popular OTC drugs today, including Advil and Cerbrex (Pfizer), as well as releasing vaccines (Merck released the first Smallpox vaccine commercially available).


What does Big Pharma do?


Big Pharma is responsible for the distribution and price control of pharmaceutical drugs such as Nexium, Zantac, and Elmiron. Due to the control of Big Pharma, Americans spent $535 billion on pharmaceutical drugs in 2018, which is a 50 percent increase from 2010. Moreover, Big Pharma inflated the prices of these drugs from anywhere between 40 and 71 percent from 2011-2015. An example of this can be seen with insulin, where 1 in 4 people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes admitted to insulin rationing, which is a method in which one uses less insulin than what is recommended in order to prolong the amount that they have. This has been due to the skyrocketing of prices of many prescribed drugs, not just insulin.


In Conclusion…


Big Pharma is an ever-expanding industry within our society today. The influence of these powerful pharmaceutical companies dictate the price and availability of many of our everyday

drugs, whether prescribed, such as insulin, or over the counter, such as Advil. The monopoly that these companies have created in the market of pharmaceuticals has raised questions as to whether or not these corporations are actually trying to help the general public, as profits seem more important to them based on the absurdly high prices of patented medicine. Due to these facts, conflicting sides have risen up to support and attack Big Pharma. Which side will you choose?


Works Cited:

Compton, Kristin. “Big Pharma and Medical Device Manufacturers.” Drugwatch.com, 2020, www.drugwatch.com/manufacturers/#:~:text=Big%20Pharma%20is%20the%20nickname,billions%20of%20dollars%20every%20year.


Anderson, Maia. “Top 10 Pharma Companies by Revenue: The Worldwide Pharmaceutical Market Was Worth about $1.3 Trillion in 2019, According to Market Research Cited by The Pharma Letter. .” Becker's Hospital Review, 4 Mar. 2020, www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/top-10-pharma-companies-by-revenue.html.


Ahmed, Abbey Meller and Hauwa. “How Big Pharma Reaps Profits While Hurting Everyday Americans.” Center for American Progress, 30 Aug. 2019, www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2019/08/30/473911/big-pharma-reaps-profits-hurting-everyday-americans/.


By Alex Fu

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