Russia’s Channel 5 Publishes Opposition to Flu Business
(Originally published in Russian on February 7, 2016)
The flu epidemic is still at its peak, is the flu business. The situation is quite serious. Physicians are asked not to raise panic. But people in most parts of the country are questioning an ever increasing number of flu frights and pharmaceutical controls. There is a lot of talk and confusion about new vaccines, anti-virals, and expected plagues. But official conclusions are questionable, especially since no one really knows when the next outbreak will occur.
This conversation is not idle. The last time such a pandemic went “viral” was seven years ago. But in 2009, Der Spiegel magazine conducted an investigation and concluded that it was not the flu outbreak that drove the panic. Expert witnesses lied, even at the World Health Organization. At the beginning of the epidemic, the “experts” predicted that the virus could kill up to 2 million people. It was on that basis that all governments were forced to stockpile huge inventories of vaccines and antiviral drugs.
But fairly soon, people worldwide recognized the erroneous forecasts. The panic and rumors transferred to and through ordinary people, became the source of political debate. No one denied the flu was risky. But the procurement of drugs increased significantly at everyone’s expense, and were of questionable value.
The drug and vaccine business had gotten out of hand, especially in the eyes of Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz who had conducted his own investigation into the origin of the “Mexican Swine flu.” That was what the H1N1 pandemic was initially called. He concluded the plague reflected ” biological sabotage against humanity.”
Horowitz holds several postdoctoral degrees, including one in “media persuasion and public health” from Harvard University. He concluded that, “by the time the swine flu fright wained in the U.S. the morbidity and mortality was not significantly increased from a typical flu season in which approximately 18,000 people die. Officials and the ‘pharma-media’ began to inflate the plague most dramatically. And they hid the fact that most of those killed were drug addicts or people with compromised immune systems most often caused by side effects from taking drugs and vaccines. “
But panic fueled pharmaceutical industry profits. Spreading fears benefited “Big Pharma, Big Biotech, and Big Money,” Dr. Horowitz added. The flu fright become a cover for big business and a propaganda agenda.
And now a new flu outbreak is at hand. Have you not considered that this plague was provoked for the sake of someone else’s benefit?
Most people in Russia do not trust Western conspiracy theories. We live by different rules and fortunately other laws.
So our special correspondent, Konstantin Rozhkov, felt compelled to do his own investigation after witnessing Russian pharmacies under siege. People stormed the counters in search of any means to combat colds and flu.
Sergey, a pharmacy visitor said: “I could not buy a mask. There are 50 pieces in each package. I do not need so many! ” Correspondent Rozhkov appraised the evidence big business. “Yes, 400 or something rubles,” Sergey said, is far more than he desired to spend for a single mask.
By the end of Rizhkov’s week-long investigation, the situation on the drug front, more or less, leveled off. Here and there expensive imported drugs suddenly appeared that doctors usually recommended for the flu. The correspondent became repulsed. “It’s time to exhale and count the profits,” he wrote.
Marina Germanova, who ran one pharmacy said, “Revenue, of course, is increased when more people [are frightened], and demand more meds. Then revenue increases. This is, well . . . a trade secret.”
December, January and February for pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies is the same as in June, July, August for travel agencies. For 3 months, you can earn as much as for the whole rest of the year, Germanova informed Rizhkov.
Alexander Myasnikov, chief physician of the City Clinical Hospital №71, explained that “any virus, not just influenza or acute respiratory disease,” is a boon to pharmaceutical company profits.” Their profit is like a “pure gold cast monument the size of a 10-story building.” The companies are enriched “out of all proportion.”
Escalating prices on everything drugstores sell to combat colds and flus at the time of a panic is, of course, unethical. People have no legitimate right to do this, and in Russia, this problem still exists despite governmental regulations.
In Russia, there is a constantly updated list of so-called “essential drugs” containing a little more than 600 products. The size of margins on them are strictly regulated by the state.
But this is only 40% of what is on the shelves. Everything else can be priced as much as the director wants at any particular pharmacy or pharmacy network. This includes all kinds of cough syrups, antipyretic drugs, candy for a sore throats, and more without which you certainly will not die. But these items can still help alleviate the condition and symptoms of illness.
One pharmaceutical science investigator, David Melik-Guseinov, said, “Those drugs, whose prices are not regulated by the state, we are now able to get online. We look for these drugs during epidemics, and notice that the prices grow at times.”
Correspondent Rozhkov went to the site to search for drugs in pharmacies of St. Petersburg. “Everything is just like that,” he wrote. “The price range of, say, the same throat lozenges in the epidemic period increased significantly. At one point, for example, packaging costs before the announced flu was 180 rubles. Then after the panic, and in another store, the price had already reached 368 rubles! The difference is more than 2 times. Why is that?”
One pharmacist responded behind his counter, just shrugging his shoulders. He called his network director to ask her directly. “This margin corresponds to the law,” the director of the pharmacy network defended.
“The margin of 100% corresponds to the law?” Rozhkov returned.
“It [the margin] can be arbitrary. At least 1000%! We are not breaking the law,” the official added.
And she was right, because the drug was not included in the government’s list of products.
In general, consumers might want to say “thank you” for charging only 360 rubles per pack, rather than 3,500 that could be legally charged, Rozhkov wrote facetiously questionning.”Is that a good faith justifiable margin?”
“Well, what do you think? We still need to profit!” the director defended.
Flu Business Profit
But such big profits at the time of any given epidemic does not seem fair or ethical. Due to the panic, people rush to empty all store shelves marked “effectively helps with colds and flu.” As a result, the drug store business over the past few decades has evolved from a reasonable income-generating enterprise to extremely profitable.
On profitability, this fear-driven busines is far ahead of even oil production. Here are the figures for 2013 when the price of a barrel of oil had not yet collapsed. Even at 1 dollar invested in the production of liquid “black gold,” the average return on investment was 1 dollar and 24 cents. Those who put this dollar in a cold tablet earned one and a half that amount of net profit.
Yevgeny Komarovsky, a pediatrician, said, “Our patients bring to our clinic a gold tablet that they were willing to pay for. That product is one of many that the pharmaceutical industry is going to invent to help them with their huge selection of drugs, allegedly capable of killing the virus.”
Here is another simple example. In our pharmacies that sell homeopathic remedies against flus and SARS, the main active ingredient in one product is the “offal of ducks”! In scientific circles it is, to put it mildly, puzzling. How can you treat virus particles with any amount of poultry liver? It sounds absurd.
However, this so-called “medicine” quite successfully sells in virtually every Russian pharmacy. A single liver can produce 2 million doses we are told. The package, which costs an average of 700 rubles includes 12 doses. That is, buying only 1 bird, a company can make 116 million rubles.
All you need is a competent advertising campaign and the army lured buyers.
One woman [whose face Channel 5 could not reveal], used to work in one of the large companies engaged in the production and sale of drugs. She knows all the business, from the inside. According to her, the overwhelming majority of pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies operating worldwide engage in a form of bribery, by private commercial contracts. The former drug company employee confessed, “The contracts with product suppliers that reach the market provide calculations of stock ranges and little-known financial agreements. If you can not pay for your contract, your promoted products never become available in stores. “
Pharmaceutical companies pay pharmacies to display, shelve, and advertise medications. These are the most prominent ones in the stores, also most often recommended by pharmacists behind the counter.
Given this knowledge, it does not matter if the liver of a duck is real, or simply an imaginary effective means to kill a cold or flu. We come to the pharmacy as unwary customers, and are sold cough syrups and other medicines worth, say, 600 rubles per pack. And we probably still got off lightly, since the store could have charged us much more!
Complaining of a cold, Rozhkov asked another pharmacist, “Is there anything you would advise?”
“I would take this one,” the drug counselor replied, pointing to another product.
“Why this one?” Rozhkov asked.
“Well, it’s more a … stronger ….” the druggist professed.
Objecting to the 600 rubles price of the “stronger” offering, Rozhkov was offered another medicine for 300 rubles. “However, it is not as effective,” said the seller in a white coat.
Another former employee of a pharmaceutical company explained that this behavior is common. The most “expensive medication is recommended most often. . . . It is the system. “
Returning to the secret presence of closed door contracts with pharmaceutical companies that are not against the law, Rozhkov asked another drugstore chief if there was an agreement between any pharmaceutical company and her particular store to stimulate sales. Marina Germanova, the head of the pharmacy, replied. “No, no … no Agreements.”
This industry-wide concealment results in a very ugly picture. Pharmacies are complicit with pharmaceutical companies in imposing certain medications, often at inflated prices earning not less than oil.
Alexander Myasnikov, chief physician of the City Clinical Hospital №71, complained about the outrageous flu business. “People are sick and dying of hypertension that is grossly neglected. Diabetes problems are likewise overshadowed by flu frights. Colds and flus. That’s all that makes news! “
No other diseases in the world have as many medicines as colds and flus. While most of this or that will not save anyone, the flu business doesn’t care. Drugstores still sell over-the-counter pills and elixirs even when in more severe outbreaks are headlined, such as with SARS and the swine flu. Is that complacency, consumer fraud, or simply the flu business as usual?
Yevgeny Komarovsky, a pediatrician, complained, “If the disease disappears in 99% percent of the cases in 5-7 days without taking any medicines, that’s how you can prove that you recovered naturally, because you were supposed to.” The effectiveness of drugs, or alternatively natural remedies, can be proved only through full clinical trials. . . . Take 2 groups of sick people. First, treat one group with conventional, or proven means. Then treat a second group adding the drug, test product, and a “dummy” (or placebo). Then look who went quickly on the mend.
Such research, which can reveal the real effectiveness of a drug is carried out, for example, at the St. Petersburg Institute of Influenza. But as we are told, not all manufacturers of antiviral pills perform adequate testing.
Vladimir Notch, Head of a laboratory studying the molecular basis of chemotherapy against viral infections at the Influenza Research Institute, complained, “Why anyone who sells a drug at the pharmacy does not carry out such a study, is beyond me, because there is a risk in selling that drug and making a profit. Studies can prove that certain drugs have no effect. ” Yet they may pose risks.
Russian state monitors only work to assure that drugs in pharmacies are harmless. So whether drugs help or not, it is on the conscience of manufacturers.
Dr. Notch reported studying a dozen sites and antivirals presented in local pharmacies. Some showed the results of clinical trials, and others wrote not a word.
The idea on which the offices of the largest pharmaceutical companies may come to dread is that in most cases the common cold will never heal by costly drugs. The best results are achieved by simply gargling, washing hands and noses, getting plenty of bed rest, maintaining body fluid and electrolytes, and rehydrating the sick.
Maybe the flu business was foolishly invented, and we are all fools for buying into it, as our experts seem to claim. Are there cranks in medicine? Even the official website of the World Health Organization seems to say so in their influenza “Recommendations” section.
Quoting from the WHO website: “Worldwide, most patients infected with the pandemic virus continue to experience typical influenza symptoms and fully recover within a week, even without any medical treatment. Healthy patients with the disease, uncomplicated, do not need to be treated with antivirals.”
It is terrible to imagine what will happen to pharmaceutical industry officials if this “secret” is widely told. Useless product sales will fall sharply. In winter, people will no longer bloat pharmacies, and save on medications for colds and flus that they don’t need. Like a hundred years ago, smart consumers will effectively treat themselves with hot tea, with lemon with honey.
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