These days, it seems like there are prescription drugs for every ailment one can imagine. While I am still not in favor of heavy drugs to treat attention deficit disorder, I’ll admit prescription medicines will do wonders for afflictions such as paranoid schizophrenia and debilitating migraines. However, when it comes to the nature of most medications Americans are using, we’re barking up the wrong tree.How is that, you ask? Quite simply, the major pharmaceutical companies are pumping all kinds of money and time into frivolous medications or off-brand versions of popular types of drugs. All the while, it is diverting valuable resources away from true medical progress.
My favorite frivolous prescription would have to be Lamisil. You know, Novartis Pharmaceuticals runs those commercials that try and convince you there is a small goblin named “Digger the Dermatophyte” burrowed under your toenail. His favorite activities include making your nails yellow and brittle with his “claw of death,” all while being an arrogant little jerk about it.
While Novartis created a killer advertising campaign behind the likes of Digger, that doesn’t change the fact that their medication for toenail fungus is relatively low on most people’s lists of medical priorities. Conventional wisdom says keeping your toenails neat and clean, as well as avoiding jamming your feet in vats of disease-infested pork, would help heal such an infection. Sadly, hundreds of millions of dollars were probably wasted on this project alone.
Another problem that plagues the pharmaceutical industry is the development of copycat drugs. For example, there are three major brands of erectile dysfunction drugs on the market today: Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Viagra was a huge success when it first burst onto the scene, making tons of money. Hoping to get their pieces of the pie, Bayer Healthcare and Eli Lilly and Co. soon released their answers to Viagra.
Look, I understand there is a market for these kinds of medicines, but what good does it do to have three different producers of drugs that, according to the Health Central Network, all function in the same basic fashion? Quite frankly, there is no good reason. It’s all just a way for pharmaceutical companies to make boatloads of money by offering nearly identical medications in different names and colors.
Does everybody see the problem here? Making pharmaceutical drugs for the sake of profit is holding back our society’s progress in the battle against real diseases and disorders. Drugs for common ailments such as toenail fungus and erectile dysfunction may be an easy sell, but they aren’t doing a great deal of good for the world. Every dollar spent developing a frivolous or off-brand drug is one dollar taken away from finding a cure for AIDS or cancer. Plus, every team of scientists put to the task of developing such medications is one group of brilliant people deprived of the chance to make a real difference in the lives of millions.
Economist Ayn Rand said, “Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.” In that case, we should be very worried about the state of our country today. The Invisible Hand usually guides free market economies toward success. However, in our case, it is ushering millions to the grave. The profit-over-duty attitude of America’s drug companies is putting many breakthrough medications on the backburner in favor of easy money. I don’t know about you, but I’d take a cure for cancer over perfect toenails any day.
David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears every Tuesday and Friday.