Why You Are Paying 20,000% More for Less Effective Prescription Drugs with Dr. John Abramson

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About this Episode

Dr. John Abramson is a physician who is a clinical faculty member at Harvard Medical School. His areas of expertise include public health policy, and he has a special interest in the pharmaceutical industry in America. He has authored two books on this subject, with his most recent title, 'Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It,' published in 2022. He is also an expert in national litigation with respect to the drug industry.

In this astonishing episode, Dr. Abramson reveals how the pharmaceutical industry skews data to mislead not the American public, doctors, and the rest of the medical industry. He details how pharmaceutical companies control the narrative by funding research, owning the data, and using powerful marketing strategies. These efforts create an institutionalized bias towards pricey drugs, which in some cases are 200 times more expensive than alternatives that are equally as effective.  

Whether you're an employer, medical professional, or an American resident, prepare to be shocked at how drug companies have gradually taken control of the systems and institutions that are meant to regulate the pharmaceutical industry and protect Americans. 

Key Takeaways from this Episode

"80% of the American public think that drugs cost too much, and that drug companies are primarily interested in their own profits, and yet there's this hope that medical innovation will provide us with therapies that are previously unavailable and that our future good health is going to be dependent on the pharmaceutical companies' innovation, rather than the way we live our lives." 

"The primary job of the pharmaceutical industry, regardless of what they try to tell us, is to maximize their revenues and returns those revenues to their shareholders. It's not to make us healthier. They spend a lot of money trying to convince us that it's to make us healthier, but it's not their primary job." 

"All of the channels that provide healthcare information, be it to doctors, or the public, or purchasers, almost all of the information about pharmaceuticals comes from the drug industry itself."

"In terms of the universe of knowledge that doctors receive from new research, 96% of that knowledge is about drugs and devices. It's not about how to make Americans healthier. Less than 4% of the money we spend on research is about how to make Americans healthy." 

"The information that is generated by the drug companies, who pay for about 86% of clinical trials, is used as marketing material, but the doctors don't understand this. The doctors think they are practicing evidence-based medicine." 

Show Breakdown

00:43  - The true costs of pharmaceuticals in the employer wellness space.

01:46 - Why does the American public need to start taking their health into their own hands?

03:46 - How do pharmaceutical companies use marketing and publicity to seem altruistic?

04:53 - How did Dr. Abramson become a national thought-leader on the pharmaceutical industry and how do companies obscure data?

24:32 - How do pharmaceutical companies bypass the peer-review system?

28:19 - How do drug companies favor more expensive treatments that aren't always more effective?

27:36 - How do employers navigate through the pharmaceutical industry?

01:02:59- What responsibility do doctors bear in this situation?

01:06:22 - An optimistic closing note.


Dr John Abramson

Dr. JOHN ABRAMSON has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for twenty years and is a lecturer in the department of health care policy. A former family doctor, he is the author of the acclaimed book Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine and has made more than seventy-five appearances on national television shows, including the Today (twice), CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN Morning America, CNN Headline News, Megyn Kelly Fox News, and the Dr. Oz Show. He has also appeared several times on NPR, including All Things Considered and On Point. He has written op-ed pieces in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other major outlets, and his writing has also appeared in The Lancet, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and other prestigious medical publications. He lives in the Boston area.

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