Just Say No

"Welcome back to 60 Minutes IX. Next up: There's been a lot of discussion recently about the lack of a prescription-drug plan for Medicare, and why necessary medicines have gotten to costing so darned much. To find the answers, we set up our cameras here with Mr. Rudy Dreesen, president and CEO of Monopoly Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Dreesen, thanks for being our guest."

"No problem. Want to try a new antihistamine? It's chewable. Nine flavors."

"No, thanks. But I wonder if you could comment on Americans spending $125 billion a year on prescription drugs, a number that doubled between 1995 and 1999?"

"And I have a new Jag in the driveway to prove it! But seriously, drugs are more expensive here in the USA ? which is one of the only places in the world where we get to charge as much as we want, heh heh ? and we have to sell the stuff overseas much cheaper because those countries regulate drug prices. So, we screw the consumers here in America to make up the difference. Cough drop?"

"No, thanks. That's why people try to stock up in Mexico."

"Right. Plus, they get a free pinata."

"There have been charges that the patent deal you guys have isn't so good for competition."

"You only make money on stuff doctors prescribe. We can do a lot of expensive research and wind up with pills for a disease nobody has. So, we have to gouge on the big sellers. And, those Prozac clocks don't come cheap."

"But pharmaceutical profits are about the highest anywhere."

"Number two, right behind counterfeiting. But look at all the FDA regulations we have to go through. Like starting next year, all new drugs have to rhyme with either 'cerebellum' or 'latex.'"

"But it came out recently that a lot of the consultants the FDA hires to evaluate new drugs actually have financial stakes in them."

"Busted! But heck, we can't get bricklayers to try this junk, can we? Besides, it's all a charade. And there's always the chance of a lawsuit, which is why we have to run those disclaimers in the TV ads: 'Warning, your arm may fall off.'"

"That's another thing. What's this 'now available without a prescription'?"

"Don't get me started. Last week the medication was so dangerous you needed a doctor, a druggist, and the whole FDA to give you permission. This week, it's on the shelf next to the arch supports."

"I must say, you're very honest about all these shenanigans the drug companies are pulling."

"No problem. Our company has a saying ? 'Sample what you sell, even the suppositories.' So today, we're all checking out a new sodium-pentothal alternative. I'll deny everything tomorrow."

"I see. In that case, maybe you can explain why doctors have such terrible handwriting on prescription blanks."

"It's a secret message. 'Dear Pharmacist: Don't give this guy anything that works, or we'll both be out of a job.'"

Copyright 2000 Garry Lee Wright. All rights reserved. GLW's on WGN (AM radio 720) Chicago and wgnradio.com.

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