A few decades ago they called it “green washing.” The use of communications tactics to change the truth. Think of clean coal: The term clean coal appeared in the 1980s, and came to mean carbon capture utilization and storage — a concept to capture the worst portions of coal. But, the technology is still years off, and it may never capture enough to make coal clean.
But the term stuck, and is still cited by politicians, even if it is a platitude.
The new green washing is coming from another huge industry, one that more and more powers our lives — Big Pharma. As so many Americans struggle to afford the medications they need to live, so many more struggle with the add-on of opioids. Who is to blame? The companies that jacked up the cost of life-saving medications? The government that let it happen? The drug makers who flooded the market with pain killers and encouraged physicians to over-prescribe them? Apparently not.
Each year, Big Pharma spends $20 billion on advertising. In fact, according to the New Republic, Big Pharma spends a lot more on marketing than it does on research and development. Meanwhile, the Health Care Cost Institute found that the average American with type 1 diabetes spends more than $5,700 each year on insulin, twice what it cost back in 2012. Insulin was first used in 1922, almost a century ago. So why does it cost almost $6,000 per year? Today 1 in 4 insulin users are attaining their medicine in America.
OxyContin was first marketed it as a safe drug, with a tiny risk of addiction. The pain killing opioids had been reserved for cancer patients and the dying as comfort measures… Big Pharma told physicians that their new drugs were a new way to manage chronic pain. And, they told docs that the addiction was psychological, not physical. That ended up not being true, but it gave the medical community the cover to prescribe opioids. The result of misinformation and unethical marketing ended in a huge spike in opioid addiction, and the epidemic cost the US $696 billion in 2018 according to VOX. In fact, 2.1 million Americans struggle with an opioid addiction. And each day, about 115 Americans die from an overdose.
Massive lawsuits have rained down on many opioid makers, and Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy.
But, in the midst of this crisis where are the changes and the accountability? Big Pharma has invested in lobbying, marketing, and a massive information campaign to fix their image problem.
Here in the Granite State, on the eve of the primary, we see the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative buy huge ads, and work with numerous non-profits. Mixed in with the logos of numerous local non-profits is the name of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America - yes that’s right — the folks who brought us the opioid crisis. And that is the new green washing.
Yes, outreach and education are great, but they don’t lower drug costs. It is pretty wallpaper and they distract us from the hard questions we should be asking.