The Hightower Report

The legalized immorality of Big Pharma

Al Capone, the infamous mob boss and bootlegger in Chicagoland during the Twen­ties, always maintained that he was just a businessman, saying the only difference between him and others was that the law criminalized his business, while legalizing the criminality of so-called "legitimate" businessmen.

Of course, big business bosses today would find their comparison to mob bosses distasteful – yet it's not that far from a true fit for many of their corporate "enterprises." After all, we regularly see shameless racketeering schemes from the establishment peers of Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Food, etc.

Then there are the wiseguys of Big Phar­ma, whose industrywide business model is based on legalized price gouging. On Feb. 10, for example, Valeant Pharmaceuticals stunned heart patients, doctors, and hospitals by suddenly jacking up the price of two essential lifesaving heart drugs. By a lot – Valeant tripled the price of a single vial of Nitropress, from $260 to more than $800, while sextupling the price of Isuprel from $215 a vial to nearly $1,400! Had the drugmaker improved the medicines? No, they were exactly the same formulations as before. The only thing that changed was ownership – Valeant bought the rights to the medications from another company on Feb. 10. Then, on that very day, it arbitrarily used its monopoly control to exact a rip-off price from those who have no choice but to pay it. A spokeswoman for Valeant was unrepentant: "Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value" of their investments, she declared.

By "duty," the lady from Valeant didn't mean a moral duty, but a "duty" manufactured by corporate lawyers and lobbyists to extract immoral profits from vulnerable people. Al Capone would smile approvingly at that rationalization.


For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Donald Show

Jim Hightower, July 10, 2015

The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The damning nuttiness of the GOP's "Hell No" faction

Jim Hightower, Aug. 15, 2014

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle