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Diabetes Is Big Business, But For Whom?

by Dr. Rivkah Roth

(GreenMedInfo) We all know that diabetes is big business. The trillion dollar question is: "big business for whom?"

This week (April 2012), 1st Quarter net profit financial statements were released in business publications worldwide. Among the company net profit earnings reported were some of the biggest manufacturers of diabetes and diabetes-related medications.

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This blog is written by a health professional and not a business savvy individual. It, therefore, does not claim accuracy nor is this list anywhere close to complete. But, it should get us thinking. Here are the reports from just five of the major couple of dozen or so pharmaceutical companies:

  • Merck reported $11.7 billion[1] net earnings from January to March 2012, largely boosted by higher sales of their Januvia and Janumet diabetes drugs.
  • The Sanofi report exceeds expectations with a 13% increase to $3,2 billion[2] and includes diabetes drugs such as Lantus.
  • Novartis announced an 18%[3] net profit drop to $2.33 billion (still a hefty 3 month profit!) among a sales drop to $13.74 billions.[4] – Any of these "losses" can’t be that devastating considering that Novartis, early this week, announced their plans for a new $550 million production site in its native Switzerland.
  • Nova Nordisk reports an 18% increase to a hefty $822 million net profit[5] and plans on expanding its US-based diabetes sales force by 15% in 2012.[6]

On the other hand, we have a consumer advocacy group calling on the FDA to ban their diabetes drug Victoza[7] over suspicion that it might contribute to thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, and possibly other safety issues not eliminated or excluded by human studies.

  • All the while, Ampio has been awarded US and Canadian patents for commercializing diabetes-related drugs.[8]

The magnitude of the accumulated, largely diabetes-related drug income becomes clear when we consider that we need to quadruple the above numbers in order to arrive at ballpark estimates for yearly earnings.

Against these giant numbers, our 7 billion world population count appears minor. But the per capita consumer burden is huge. The discrepancy becomes even more striking when we consider that of those seven billion people…

  • at this point, only every 2nd individual worldwide is at risk of developing diabetes and related conditions and complications later in life, and that
  • the fastest diabetes growth rates are in countries such as India, China, Malaysia, Philippines, etc. without widespread access to or use of prescription drugs.

When we read these numbers we got to further keep in mind that advertising budgets typically are in the billions for each and every pharmaceutical company, and that for most pharmaceutical companies that advertising budget is greater than their allotted research budget.

It takes but an hour or so in front of a television set or an internet screen to realize that the majority of advertisements deal with promoting processed foods and pharmaceutical drugs. Not surprisingly, many pharmaceutical giants have a stake in food production companies.

Are we looking at a marketing paradigm of a "promote processed foods = raise pharmaceutical earnings" attitude? Truly, this sends shivers down the spine.  

On the other hand, research has amply documented that no disease complex is easier changed and avoided by adhering to proper food and lifestyle habits than metabolic diseases including diabetes.

Clearly, the food-pharma connection is working a tighter and tighter net. The only one who can break out of this vicious circle is the consumer – You:

  1. by avoiding processed and unhealthy foods
  2. by leading an overall healthier, more active lifestyle
  3. by looking for alternatives of causal healing instead of symptom-based pharmaceutical suppression therapies.

The bottom line, we as the taxpayers and consumers can no longer afford spending these dollar amounts first on unhealthy foods and subsequently on equally unhealthy drug fixes. 

What are YOU going to do about this?

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