During the ultimate scene of betrayal in the movie Wall Street, a young stockbroker named Bud Fox learns that his idol, the golden-calf worshiping Gordon Gekko, has not only lied to him but left his father's company exposed to the whims of the wolves of Wall Street. In a climactic moment, Fox asks Gekko: "How much is enough? How many yachts can you water ski behind?"
Even though this film was mid-1980s fare, well, as they say, the more things change... . Perhaps not for the actor who played Bud Fox, Charlie Sheen, who should share Natalie Portman's Oscar for real-time transformation into the Black Swan. But for the rest of us, who have watched as greed has become the foundational structure upon which much of our modern economy is built, it is often difficult to see how we might close the Pandora's Box and return to saner times. You know, back when being Donald Trump wasn't considered an asset in a hair-club-for-men commercial, much less a race to be president of the United States.
Nowhere is this greed more pervasive than among those companies responsible for the health of roughly 300 million of Americans: Big Pharma. You know, the guys who got a better sweetheart deal from George Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit than Anna Nicole Smith did from that old rich guy.
Later, re-importation from Canada and bulk negotiation for Medicare prescription drugs were written out of any Obama health-care plan, even though each was at the heart of Democratic Party campaign promises in 2006 and 2008.
Maybe money cannot buy you love -- but the halls of Congress have a more Heidi-Fleiss-kind-of ethic to them.
Steve Lendman of RINF.com, in providing a summary of David Sirota's bestselling book, Hostile Takeover, clarifies:
This industry is one of the most profitable in the country making about 18 cents profit on every dollar of sales; it is aided by government using our tax dollars to fund about one third of all research on new drugs the industry gets at no charge; the industry spends about twice as much on advertising, promotion and administrative costs as they do on R & D to develop new drugs; the prices charged for prescription drugs in the US are inordinately high compared to the rest of the world and are rising at about four times the rate of inflation; these rising costs plus those for most all health services are rising so fast, companies are forcing their employees to pay a greater share of them or are reducing overall health care benefits.
Ever feel like you are the bank and they are Dillinger? If not, you probably should.
I can attest to their greed personally, from working with preeminent plaintiffs' lawyer Ed Blizzard, who has challenged the right of pharmaceutical companies to poison Americans, like it is part of their business model. It is Blizzard who made Vioxx drug-maker Merck pay dearly -- to the tune of $4.85 billion -- for the scores of Americans who lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, because Vioxx promised to help with arthritis and instead delivered sudden cardiac arrest.
Now, because of a lack of any regulation, Americans are being poisoned by hip implants created by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Depuy Orthopaedics Inc., that are not only not tracked by any regulated registry, but in many cases were never even tested before being put into people's bodies -- so the inside of victims hips could come to resemble a post-Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico.
You can tell they're confident that their 93,000 recalls, which they had been warned about as early as 2008, but did not do anything to address until 2010, aren't proof of any wrongdoing. That is probably why Depuy's President, David Floyd, just recently resigned.
Even worse, the chromium poisoning that is destroying victims' bone and muscle is nothing new, in fact, you may remember a town of people who got cancer due to its ill effects from the movie Erin Brockovich. Now, they have Depuy and Johnson & Johnson to thank for this honor.
So one understands we are talking about real people here, one of Blizzard's clients, 58-year-old construction worker Larry Barnett of Modesto, Illinois, "suffered debilitating pain -- he had trouble even walking or standing after receiving the part" and now is "at much greater risk for cancer." Barnett told reporter Mike Cronin of The Daily, that Depuy's ASR hip replacement has "screwed up my life for three years." This man was a hard-working construction worker, who "only wants to get back to work."
One wonders if any pharmaceutical company had to give up income for three years, which they would do first -- hand off the bill to American taxpayers or make Canada accept drug re-importation from the United States for 150% of the price.
As Blizzard has said, "nobody signed up for an oil spill in their body." They did not sign up for cancer either.
So let me ask the question this time, as Sheen is currently a bit preoccupied with other matters, it would seem: When is enough, enough?
Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter
This column was first published at Al Jazeera English