The Medical/Industrial/Complex

Back when President Obama was proposing health care reform I, naively, thought that the way to overhaul health care was to ask why Americans were so unhealthy to begin with and that question would inevitably lead back to our industrial method of food production.

Silly, silly boy.

What I hadn’t quite figured out back then was that Americans were unhealthy for a reason. If the industrial food production system, which is highly profitable for monopoly, big-agriculture corporations, makes Americans unhealthy, all the better. Unhealthy people don’t generally have the wherewithal to protest or revolt, plus as a bonus they make excellent customers for the medical/industrial/complex.

It’s a feature of our system rather than a bug.

Meanwhile, this is how the medical/industrial/complex, approaches public health.

On an investor call last month, the CEO of Pfizer, Frank D’Amelio, discussed what would happen to revenue from his vaccine product as the Covid pandemic ends, what he called the “durability of the franchise.” He told analysts not to worry. People in rich countries will need annual booster shots, and that is where Pfizer will make real money.

For these annual treatments, Pfizer will be able to charge much more than it does now. The current price for a covid vaccine, D’Amelio noted, is $19.50 per dose. He told analysts of his hope Pfizer could get to a more normal price, “$150, $175 per dose,” instead of what he called “pandemic pricing.”

That sounds like a real business opportunity to a guy like me. If Covid is not brought under control, then Pfizer and Moderna can charge everyone who can afford it $150 per year (and maybe twice a year) for the rest of their lives. Pretty good cash flow based on simple medical/industrial/complex economics where selling a palliative which patients have to keep buying is a lot more profitable than selling a cure. Pharma doesn’t want cures: they want you on their pills or shots for the rest of your life.

It gets worse. The part that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that our world is run by sociopaths is why there will need to be annual boosters. It’s not because the vaccine strength wanes over time, though there’s a distant possibility that might happen. It’s because, as D’Amelio told Wall Street, there will be new variants emerging from abroad that can evade the vaccine. And how will variants emerge abroad? Well as outbreaks occur in non-vaccinated parts of the world, new strains will naturally occur as the virus mutates. If the rest of the world gets vaccinated, however, new variants won’t arise.

It’s a good bet that Pfizer is hoping that there won’t be a global effective vaccination campaign because while their main goal is to keep prices high it is actually against Pfizer’s financial interest to have the rest of the world vaccinated. If the world gets vaccinated, Pfizer won’t necessarily be able to sell expensive booster shots in rich countries who can afford them.

The unstated part in all of this is that D’Amelio, Pfizer and Wall Street could give a rats ass about anyone in the Third World, but if you’ve been paying attention you already know that.

This is also the logical result of a system that relies on a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry to produce lifesaving drugs. These companies’ business models are predicated on high prices and weak regulation, not altruism and the common good. Can we really be surprised when for-profit companies attempt to profit off their products even as people die?

It’s the same thing with the rest of the medical/industrial/complex. In a for-profit healthcare system can we really be surprised that we have a lot of sick people who are drugged to the gills yet don’t seem to get better?

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