Sunday, February 26, 2012

The real dope dealers are the 1%

This is their answer: ours is fightback
Drug distributor, Cardinal Health Inc. (nothing to do with health should have "Inc" after its name) and drug retailer CVS are in a bit of hot water with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  The trouble stems around the painkiller oxycodone.  Oxycodone is a very powerful narcotic similar to morphine.  According to the DEA, oxycodine is highly addictive and has four times as many "abusers" as cocaine the Wall Street Journal reports.

The DEA "alleges" Cardinal turned a blind eye to "escalating oxycodene orders" from two Florida CVS pharmacies. The term that the appears to have been used is "repeatedly overlooked", a nice sounding phrase to describe putting profit before health.

What sparked the DEA's interest in this (Socialist/communist government interference of private enterprise in Tea Party speak) was that one of the CVS stores in Florida had reported that between January 2010 and October 2011 58% of oxycodone prescriptions were paid for in cash, including some prescriptions costing more than $200, eight times the national average of 6.9% for prescription cash payments, the WSJ adds.  Those silly socialist minded folks at the DEA seem to think that these sort of cash payments may just may be a sign that this drug is being used for non-medical use.  One pharmacist at CVS reported to the DEA that some of the customers were "shady" characters.

Is it possible that Cardinal, the supplier, simply "overlooked" these developments? Sure,  if we take overlooked to mean, that the issue overlooked wasn't a signal of some malfeasance.  But Cardinal "approved" a massive supply increase of oxycodone to one of the CVS pharmacies in 2009, a nine fold increase in fact.  Then the next year the usage shot up 63% according to the Journal to "two million doses".  Do I need a Harvard MBA or a medical degree to draw certain conclusions from such data?

According to the Journal, In the course of its investigation, the DEA discovered that:
  • At one CVS pharmacy on October 11 2011, "every third car that came through the drive-thru lane had prescriptions, for oxycodone or hydrocodone."
  • Between Nov. 2009 and Nov. 2010 Cardinal adjusted the threshold for oxycodone five times allowing CVS's monthly allowance of dosage units to increase from 112,00 to 319,000 per month.
  • Had Cardinal checked, its own policies were being violated as 42% of oxycodone sales were paid in cash that its policies determine is indication of what they describe as "diversion" rather than chronic addiction.
CVS has "voluntarily" stopped handing out oxycodone at the two stores in question but both CVS and Cardinal have gotten a temporary injunction preventing the DEA from pulling their licenses.  Spokespersons for both corporations have waxed eloquent about their integrity. Cardinal Inc's CEO wants to work "collaboratively" to "help stop abuse, not legitimate use".  Legitimate means legal, state sanctioned, like waterboarding or detaining people for a decade with no trial or access to the courts. Cardinal points to the fact that the DEA is only talking about four pharmacies out of 2,500 pharmacies and hospitals it supplies out of its facility on Lakeland Co Florida.

The issue though is not about individual malfeasance or corruption; it is about human health care being a medical industrial complex, a sickness industry that is run by corporations on the basis of profit. Cardinal, for example, is the country's 2nd largest distributor with $100 billion in revenue last year.  Legal drug dealing is a massive industry and according to the DEA, as many as 7 million Americans use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, "dwarfing the 1.5 million addicted to cocaine" the WSJ adds.  I would say the 7 million figure is a very low estimate.

The Journal adds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that annual deaths from pain killer use has risen fourfold over the last decade and now exceeds, "those from heroin and cocaine combined." When we add in the hundreds of thousands who die from lack of health care, poor diet, and other health related issues, the sickness industrial complex is quite a killer.

And no thinking worker would agree for one minute that this particular case is an isolated event.  This industry is one of the most rotten, corrupt, profit addicted of all of them and these cases above is but the tip of the iceberg.  When abu Ghraib occurred or abuses by US troops of civilians in the predatory wars the 1% are engaged in at the moment the 1%'s media, politicians and Pentagon thugs maintain they are "isolated" incidents.  What happened in that Baghdad jail occurs here in US prisons all the time. And the person that took the most heat for this system breakdown?   Not Rumslfeld, Bush or the murderer Cheney, but a white working class woman who grew up in a trailer park, a victim herself of this rotten system.

The other issue here is market oriented medical care.  I won't go in to it in depth here but I see they are about to or have okayed a pill for obesity which is an epidemic in the US. But obesity has a lot to do with bad diet, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise and the effects of worklife.  More leisure time, security, education, a better diet and control over one's worklife are all things that would alleviate these things but the a pill is the most profitable way.  Laying hands on people, spending time on them, it is all costly, not good for profit making.  Medicine under capitalism will always be inadequate.

As a socialist I recognize that the state cannot serve my interests.  It is a capitalist state, it represents the interest of the 1% not the 99%.  Any concessions we won from this state came the hard way, through years of heroic struggle and sacrifice in the streets, farms, factories and communities of America, including the right to vote.  I also have no faith whatsoever that incidents like the one I am covering here will change anything permanently, will make a significant difference in the wider scheme of things. 

But that doesn't mean we should oppose the intervention of the state in our lives when it benefits us. We don't support privatizing fire departments.  We have to support regulation and public services even in a capitalist economy because it is an encroachment in to the private sphere that they despise as it undermines their propaganda that only the private sector can work---only the private sector can create jobs, provide health care or education or transportation.  We do this as we explain that to be successful, we have to change the system entirely. 

Cardinal claims, as all corporations do, that it can "adequately police itself." Even the capitalist class knows better.  They know that their system is a permanent state of war, that they will eat each other like a shark fest if they do not place some restraint on their kin.  The move against private equity is part of this attempt to rein in their most rapacious colleagues.

It is not the individual CEO or corporation that is the problem.  It is the way the production of the necessities of life, how we produce, exchange and interact with nature to provide human needs that is at the root of this problem.

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