10 Biggest Lies Drug Companies Tell You
In 2011, under new EU regulations, all herbal remedies must be registered in the same manner as prescription drugs. This means that valerian and chamomile tea has to undergo the same expensive vetting process as any kind of sleeping pill. Doctors claim that these regulations are necessary for public safety – herbal remedies could have adverse side effects if they're mixed with factory-made drugs.
What is really happening is herbalists, often mom-and-pop operations, are being forced out of business by the exorbitant registration fees proposed by Big Pharma lobbyists. And judging by a recent FDA raid on a small herbal health store in Missouri, it looks natural remedies in the U.S. will be next.
9. Free Medicine
You've probably heard the argument that it's important to save the rainforest because the cure for cancer, AIDS, or even the common cold could be hiding in the dense jungle. This argument has merit – many medications have been based on natural discoveries. The most famous example is probably quinine; the first effective anti-malarial medicine is made from bark, something Native South Americans were chewing for generations.
Quinine is an anomaly, however. Today, free medicine remains as elusive as El Dorado. If a pharmaceutical company "discovers" a new natural remedy, they will do everything to patent (and profit) off of it. If the indigenous community who had already been using the treatment receives a stipend for their efforts, the hunt for repurposed natural remedies is called bioprospecting. If Big Pharma tries to appropriate the plant without compensation, it's called biopiracy.
One of the most blatant examples of biopiracy came onto the horizon in the mid-1990s. The University of Mississippi Medical Center was granted a U.S. patent for the "use of turmeric in wound healing." You might be familiar with turmeric – it is the spice that turns your fingers yellow when you eat chicken curry. Indians have not only been cooking with turmeric for centuries, they have also been using it to cure diseases and heal wounds. But because of TRIPS, that delightful intellectual property law, the U.S. patent suddenly made it illegal to use the spice for medicinal purposes. (The University did not answer an email asking for comment.)
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. It took two years, but eventually the World Trade Organization came to its senses. Medicinal turmeric became "non-novel" and therefore unpatentable after Sanskrit scholars found ancient texts which proved that turmeric had been prescribed for over two thousand years. India managed to get past TRIPS, but what about a small rainforest tribe sitting on the cure for cancer? You can bet it will be Big Pharma, and not the indigenous custodians, who will profit off of that "discovery."
10. The War On Drugs Is Legit
Biopiracy takes place in the U.S., and not just when the U.S. government finds new ways to disenfranchise Native Americans. No, we're talking about the ongoing battle over the right to grow and use cannabis or, more specifically, its medicinal compound, THC.
The arguments against marijuana usually sound like this: it can be addictive, it can act as a gateway to dangerous drugs like heroin, and it has no accepted medicinal uses. Therefore, anyone wanting to smoke up is doing so for the thrill rather than for therapy. However, there is already a pharmaceutical on the market which delivers synthetic THC through a pill. It's being used to quell nausea in cancer patients and stimulate the appetites of AIDS patients, is FDA approved and can legally be prescribed by doctors in all 50 states. It seems as though THC, and therefore cannabis, does have medicinal properties.
So if marijuana is medicinal and no more dangerous than, say, alcohol, why is it still illegal? We're just speculating here, but it could be that cannabis can be grown practically anywhere by practically anybody. If it were legalized, Big Pharma could no longer control (and therefore no longer profit) off this substance. And so the war on drugs continues…