Ian Punnett was joined by former pharmaceutical executive Dr. John Virapen, who revealed the underhanded methods used by big pharma to get drugs approved and to rake in massive profits.
Speaking from his personal experience, Virapen recounted the chicanery he witnessed, and participated in, when he was an executive in Sweden with the drug company Eli Lilly. He explained that they wanted to introduce the drug Prozac to Sweden, because it is a "prestige country" and approval there would help spread the drug to other countries. Virapen alleged that he gave a $30,000 bribe, along with promises of future payoffs, to a Swedish official to expedite the approval process, which normally can take between one and nine years. However, when Eli Lilly balked at giving a 5 milligram sample of the drug to Swedish officials for testing, they denied the approval of Prozac and Virapen was subsequently fired for failing to get the drug approved.
Following his departure from Eli Lilly, Virapen hoped to work with other pharmaceutical companies but was dismayed to learn that his experience was not an isolated incident. He declared that the drug companies "don't care, whatsoever, for people's health" and are only focused on making money for their shareholders. To bolster his argument, he cited the massive amounts of money that have allegedly gone towards drug research and claimed that, in the last 50 years, no medicine has truly been developed to cure any actual diseases. On where that money really goes, he theorized that it gets funneled to politicians, universities, and insurance companies in order to consolidate more power for big pharma.
He lamented that the vast amount of money yielded by what he called the "pharmaceutical industrial complex" has resulted in the field being virtually impervious to true oversight. As an example of this power, Virapen cited the fines that have been levied against pharmaceutical companies for illegal marketing, a dangerous practice that can result in the death of misprescribed patients. According to him, the profits from the sale of those drugs far outweigh the imposed penalties. Therefore, the pharmaceutical companies will pay the fines so that then they can keep selling medicine, rather than take the battle to court and risk having the sale of the drug halted while the case is pending.
During the first hour, professor of biology, Peter Ward, discussed the news about methane coming from the Gulf Oil spill. He expressed a great amount of concern over the story because methane is both highly flammable as well as the "most efficient greenhouse gas on the planet." Therefore, even if the methane does not explode, Ward said that it will certainly increase global warming "at an unbelievable rate." On how to mitigate the potential damage of this massive influx of methane, Ward suggested pumping in fresh salt water around the leaking oil well, which will "dilute this stuff and do it fast."
Also during the first hour, dietary expert John Robbins talked about the need to move away from a lifestyle centered around commercialism. He observed that what he calls the "consumer trance" has resulted in the unfortunate problem of people thinking that "our self-worth is just a matter of our net worth." Additionally, it has created a standard of living that he believes will become unsustainable as oil grows scarce. As such, Robbins anticipated a "new economy" on the horizon and encouraged people to learn to be able to "distinguish their wants from their needs," a mindset that he called "incredibly empowering."
Despite the tremendous difference in size, these two salmon are actually the same age. The larger one, however, had its growth accelerated via genetic engineering. The creators of the salmon hope that such fish will soon become the first genetically modified animals allowed to be sold as food. Sure to elicit responses from a number of activist groups, the 'super salmon' is currently under review by FDA. More on the story at the New York Times.
Bumper music from Saturday June 26, 2010