Medicine, Money, and Mortality Rates

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There’s an epidemic of irrational fear and hatred in America today in regards to modern medicine. The ideology is that “Big Pharma” is doing everything it can to keep us sick so they make a larger profit. There’s talk about some big conspiracy between “Big Pharma” and government to perpetuate illness so they can make more money off of the poor, unfortunate citizens.

We hear this often as a justification for turning to “supplements, complimentary, and alternative medicine,” or, as Mark Crislip puts it, SCAMS. This same ideology often fuels the anti-vaccination movement as well, because they are under the impression that vaccines are a massive, money making scheme.

Now, this isn’t to say that the pharmaceutical industry isn’t driven by money. Of course is, like every other industry. The thing is, so is the alternative medicine industry, and they aren’t helping you in the slightest.

Let’s look at the numbers and see for ourselves.

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Follow The Money

The global pharmaceutical market is a roughly $300 billion per year industry. It’s anticipated to grow to $400 billion per year within 3 years.

The current development from the US pharmaceutical industry has over 5,000 new medicines and 3,400 new compounds currently being studied, more than any other region around the world.

It employs 810,000 people directly, and support 3.4 million jobs in the US alone.

In total revenue for all products, not just drugs, in 2013, the top 50 pharmaceutical companies reported $792 billion gross.

The alternative medicine industry is a $34 billion industry, with an expectation to reach $115 billion by 2015.

Only about one third of alternative medicine treatments being marketed have been tested.

The average profit margin for pharmaceutical companies is 16.4 percent.

There’s very little made public on the profit margins of SCAMS, however, consider that they don’t need to pay for testing, trials, or any of the safety protocols that medical companies do. The profit margin for TrueHope, a company maketing an alternative treatment for schizophrenia gives us a great idea of what that looks like, showing a profit margin of around 95%.

OK, so let’s look at vaccines in particular. The top 50 pharmaceutical companies bring in $791 billion per year (more than a trillion dollars for the industry). Of that, they can expect a net profit of $2.5 billion from vaccines. That’s a drop in the bucket.

Let’s compare with the cost of not having the vaccine. Before it was developed, we were looking at around 147,000 cases of pertussis per year. Let’s break down the costs of that.

8000 of those resulted in death. With the average funeral cost of $8,000, the total expense of those 8000 deaths would be around $64 million in that year.

Now, without death, the average cost per case for treatment would be around $6,000. That would equate to around $882 million dollars in treatments.

That would mean that a single vaccine, of the 14 or so standard childhood vaccines, if not provided, would equate to around $946 million dollars spent to the medical industry. That’s 37% of what the companies make from vaccines.

Spread that as an average across the 14 illness being vaccinated for, and you’d have a total of $13.2 billion in revenue for treatment of illnesses. That would be the medical industry is losing out on $10.7 billion in revenue thanks to vaccines.

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A Bit About Death

People talk often about deaths attributed to medicines and hospital errors, and that they are a good reason why people should use alternative treatments.

Now, errors happen. It’s not a good thing, and it’s something that the industry is always working hard to prevent, but in the end, they do happen.

The deaths range from 210,000 – 440,000 patients each year.

That sounds like a lot, I know.

Consider, though the deaths prevented thanks to modern medicine and vaccines.

Measles used to kill 150,000 people very year.

Pertussis killed 8000 per year in the US alone.

There used to be countless things that could kill you that no longer do, in general, and we have modern medicine to thank.

For most of human history, the life expectancy was about 35 years of age. As late as 1900, it was 48 years of age. Today, it averages 77.7 years of age, much of which is due to advances in health and medicine.

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The Corporate Trail

OK, let’s add to this a bit.

A large portion (70% or so) of the alternative medicine industry is owned by the major pharmaceutical industry anyway.

“Responsible companies put in very strict” manufacturing practices voluntarily, before the FDA acted, said NBTY’s president, Harvey Kamil. His company makes 50 billion capsules and tablets a year, plus extracts, aromatherapies and nutrition bars. It sells mostly to mass-market retailers who want to see certifications and “seals of approval” by the Natural Products Association and other such groups that set quality-control standards, he said.

The big exception, of course, is GNC, who reported $2.63 billion in revenue by themselves, making them “Big Pharma” themselves.

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In closing, there are a couple important truths to understand here.

Yes, the pharmaceutical is a large, money making industry.

The alternative medicine industry is also a large, money making industry, with a far higher profit margin, and the majority of their treatments have no studies to show safety or efficacy.

Yes, people die from medical malpractice and mistakes, and this is something that needs to be improved upon greatly.

Countless more would die without modern medicine and vaccines.

How many of you would be expected to already have died before the invention of modern medical practices?

Another thing to keep in mind is that the people who work for and run these companies are all human beings. They have friends, families, spouses, children, all of whom they’d like to see live a long and healthy life.

These aren’t monsters who don’t care about the value of human life. These are employees and doctors who are in the business of saving it.

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References

“2014 Market Research Report on Homeopathic & Alternative Medicine Practitioners Industry.” 2014 Homeopathic & Alternative Medicine Practitioners Industry Statistics Market Research Report. Web. 21 June 2014.

Allen, ProPublica Marshall. “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?” NPR. NPR, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Alternative Medicine.” – RationalWiki. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Alternative Medicine Industry Market Research & Statistics.” Alternative Medicine Industry Market Research & Statistics. Web. 19 June 2014.

“Big Pharma Supports the Antivaccine Movement–the Real Conspiracy.” Skeptical Raptor’s Blog. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Complementary and Natural Treatments – Schizophrenia.com.” Complementary and Natural Treatments – Schizophrenia.com. Web. 21 June 2014.

“GNC Reports 8.2 Increase in Revenue for 2013.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 June 2014.

Helmuth, Laura. “You Used to Get One Life. Now You Get Two. #NotDeadYet.” Slate Magazine. Web. 21 June 2014.

Mahar, Maggie. “Who Is Making the Biggest Profits From U.S. Healthcare? You Might Be Surprised . . .” Health Beat by Maggie Mahar. Web. 20 June 2014.

“Many Vitamins, Supplements Made by Big Pharmaceutical Companies.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 10 June 2009. Web. 21 June 2014.

Nuwer, Rachel. “Alternative Medicine Is a $34 Billion Industry, But Only One-Third of the Treatments Have Been Tested.” Smithsonian. 8 June 2013. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Pharmaceutical Industry.” WHO. Web. 21 June 2014.

“SelectUSA.” The Pharmaceutical and Biotech Industries in the United States. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Top 50 Big Top Pharmaceutical Companies Deals | Current Partnering.” Top 50 Big Top Pharmaceutical Companies Deals | Current Partnering. Web. 21 June 2014.

Tuteur, Amy, MD. “Comment Navigation.” Longing for a past That Never Existed « Science-Based Medicine. 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Vaccines.” Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine and Immunization Information. Web. 21 June 2014.

 

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Bioethics and Ethical Philosophy student at Cleveland State University, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes. He writes about science, technology, politics, human rights, feminism, religion, and any other topic that catches his eye.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

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People, Profit, and False Dichotomies

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All too often, people look at the world as if everything is a zero sum game. I’ve been seeing this in arguments against GMOs often, when people focus on the corporation as some monolithic evil, while attacking the technology.

Today’s note was “I just have the feeling that those biotech companies aren’t necessarily into helping poor people but into making profit.”

Well sure. Every company is out for profit. That’s how companies survive. They can, however, do both. It’s not always one or the other. Technologies created for profit very often have far reaching positive effects in the world.

Consider that war is the largest driver of technological advances in history. Many of those advances have been applied to modern medical practices, conveniences, and even life extending cultural changes.

Apple is a massive corporation that is involved in countless humanitarian activities. The Bill Gates Foundation is the same, stemming from Microsoft’s success.

All businesses are in it for profit, but not all profitable businesses are inherently bad. We need to set aside blind ideologies and look at everything as a spectrum, instead of the black and white “party line” stances that people tend to follow.

Besides, if they were truly that against all things “large corporation,” then they wouldn’t dare use Facebook to tell people about it, now would they?

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Trendy Activism

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There are a lot of activists for a lot of causes. The problem is that many of them don’t actually believe what they’re advocating. Let’s look at a few activist causes that really illustrate this problem well.

Pro Life

The pro life stance is that a fetus or zygote is just as human as a baby.

I promise you, most of them don’t truly believe that. You see, if you believe that the guy down the street is killing children in his basement and the police won’t do anything about it, you don’t picket his house. You do everything in your power to save those children. If you believe a fetus is the same as a child, then you don’t picket a clinic. The ones blowing up abortion clinics and killing the doctors are the only ones who truly believe what they’re advocating. The rest are on the bandwagon of ignorance because it lets them fit in with their “crowd.” Deep down, they know that there is a big difference. They just refuse to either admit it or take the steps someone would take if they truly believed that.

Anti-GMO

The contention of the anti-GMO crowd is that genetically modified foods, or genetically modified anything for that matter, is inherently harmful and is killing us all.

I guarantee that most of them don’t believe that. If you believed that the food supply was killing people, you wouldn’t protest one of the many biotech companies. You wouldn’t sit around complaining about it and ranting on the internet. You’d be taking real action. The Greenpeace eco-terrorists who are burning golden rice fields believe what they’re advocating. The rest most certainly do not. They’re advocating it because it’s trendy. It makes them hip with the “green” crowd.

Chemtrails

This is a personal favorite due to the sheer absurdity of it. The government is using aircraft to dust the population with poisonous and/or mind controlling “chemicals.”

Aside from how incredibly ignorant it is to begin with (with the other two, I can at least see where their fear and ignorance is coming from. This has to be drug induced.), they don’t really believe that. The ones hiding in bunkers in the woods surrounded by firearms believe it. The rest do not. They talk about their conspiracy theory with everyone they can find who will listen. If they really though the government was doing such a thing to them, then they’d be running like hell or revolting.

And so…

People join these “causes” because they are trendy. They’re like the Kony campaign. They don’t care about facts. They don’t care about being intellectually honest. They only care about the bandwagon ideology that they’ve jumped on and makes them sound “real” in front of their friends. This is the sort of thought process that those of us in the rational community are up against every day.

As Sam Harris said…

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence.

If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?”

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

 

Anti-Technology On The Rise

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Reason.com reported in 2001 that an anti-technology movement was on the rise. They discussed people’s fear of technology, especially nanotechnology and biotechnology, two very present and topical new technologies that are carving out a place for themselves worldwide. What I found very telling, however, is something I’ve noticed and written about in the past. The anti-technology sentiment is intrinsically linked to anti-corporation ideologies.

We see this a lot today with the anti-biotechnology movement in particular. There was always the anti-corporation undertone, but post-occupy it’s become a loud mantra for those against technological advances. It’s become so ingrained that people will make up their own “facts” to support the rhetoric and ideological stance against large corporations that produce new technology.

Even when you go back not long ago, people were protesting turning on the Large Hadron Collider because they were sure it was going to start creating black holes and destroy the planet.

Today, people insist that biotechnology is poisoning the population.

It’s no different. This is a good illustration of the fear induced rhetoric that can come from holding to ideologies instead of facts and evidence.

What I’d like to see is a move towards better public education of new technologies and the discarding of political ideologies to make way for a more evidence based worldview for the general population. Well, I can hope at least.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

5 Internet Argumentation Tips!

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 Image from xkcd

Debating topics on the internet is vastly different than doing so in person. It can, however, be a valuable tool for sharing knowledge and influencing minds, but it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips to help you make the most impact.

TONE

Tone is difficult in text. People are incredibly good at reading tone in someone else’s words dependent upon how they, themselves feel. The best is to ignore tone altogether. Don’t try to read the tone of what someone else writes. Just stick with the content of their words.

Always strive to keep your own words, and the tone you type them in, calm and even. Stay away from loaded language that can imply anything other than an even tone.

BUZZWORDS

Buzzwords are the bread and butter of the internet. They’re used to draw out emotional responses, often in otherwise rational people. Don’t use them. If you’re talking about GMOs, stay away from “shill” or “sheeple” or even “chemicals.” If you’re talking about religion, stay away from the common insults. Buzzwords are a terrible plague on our society right now. When your interlocutor uses them, dismiss them. They can only take away from the content of the discussion.

EVIDENCE

Understand the burden of proof, and when it lies on you, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, back up your claims with good evidence from reliable sources. Try not to use blogs as a scientific resource, unless they include a good set of reliable references (even if they’re entirely correct). Blogs are useful in political or social commentary that doesn’t rely as much on studies or physical evidence, but on opinion and analysis. Steer clear of YouTube.

When the burden of proof lies on your interlocutor, make sure they know it. Don’t start debunking their assertions until they provide evidence. Then, dismantle whatever evidence is unreliable or discuss any evidence that may be valid.

ASSERTIONS

If your interlocutor refuses to provide evidence, and only fires off more assertions, then the conversation is over. Don’t be upset about it or storm out with a “rage quit.” Just realize that they are so terribly uninformed that their worldview revolves around sound bytes, and not data. If you make an assertion, ANY assertion, be prepared to support it. Always.

HERD MENTALITY

This is very important. When you’re speaking on the internet, other people can usually see the conversation. They may be a point where you become outnumbered. This can go one of two ways. Either the conversation can continue to be a rational discourse, just with more people, or….it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you often see your opponents start to play off each other and cheer each other on. When this happens, the conversation is over. No amount of evidence, logic, or rational discourse will change the mind of someone who has cheerleaders.

Now, there are times where those same people will reflect later and have learned something, but in the moment, it’s no longer worth pursuing.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Those Evil Chemicals!

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Lately, I can’t get through a day without someone talking about harmful chemicals in our food. People are in an uproar over a harmless chemical in Subway rolls. People go nuts over GMOs. People even get in an uproar about flouride in the water. So, I think we should look at some of these chemical filled foods.

Let’s start with this incredibly dangerous cocktail of horribly dangerous chemicals.

sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, chlorid, flouride, iodine, slenemium, ncotinamide, pantothenic acid, frolic acid, leucine, lysine, valine, isoleucine

Wow, that’s some scary stuff. And to think, we let schools feed these “apples” to our children.

OK, now that we’re terrified, let’s take a look at another poisonous compound that we feed our children.

iron, sulfur, potassium, sodium, chlorine

Wow. Sulfur?!?! Chlorine?!?! We should ban eggs from the shelves.

OK, but surely we eat something that isn’t chemicals? What about something free ranger and organic?

Actin, myosin, moglobin, elastin, reticulin, collagen, nucleoprotein, hemoglobin, albumin, globulin, fibrinogen, citrate, lactate, niacin, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine, hydoxyproline, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc

Woah. That’s a deadly steak!

Now, let’s look at reality. Every single thing is made of chemicals. It doesn’t matter how “clean” or “organic” or whatever other buzzword you choose to use it is. Picking out a chemical you don’t understand and making claims that it’s somehow bad, regardless of what the science says is absurd, to say the least. I can only really say…

Dude, do you even science?

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

The Decline of Evidence

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There was a time, not too far in American history, that people understood the concept of evidence. Now, they may not have really grasped the scientific principles of evidence, but they got the concept. If they made a claim about science, and someone asked them to prove it, they’d point to X scientist or X scientific study they read about. What they didn’t say, typically, is “prove me wrong.”

Whenever someone makes an assertion, followed by a request to prove them wrong, the conversation is a non-starter. It’s nonsense. When you make a positive claim, such as “this is or is not true about the world,” then the onus is on you to prove your assertion. You hold the burden of proof. No one is under any obligation to believe you until you do so, nor do they need to prove you wrong. You’ve provided nothing to disprove.

Evidence, when it comes to a scientific claim, typically refers to a well formed,  peer reviewed study. At the very least, the assertion should be based on sound scientific principles that are known to be true, and it should be a falsifiable claim. There must be a solid way to test it. If your claim isn’t able to be tested and attempted to falsify, then you’ve said nothing of value scientifically.

Unfortunately, today, the concept of evidence has been skewed in the public view. The most commonly cited items as evidence in the public are YouTube videos and blog posts. These are not evidence. These wouldn’t even be accepted on a college freshman English paper as citations. If you’re making claims based on them, or worse, you’ve developed a worldview based on them, then you are devoid of intellectual honesty and any credibility whatsoever.

There’s also this strange perception of the peer review as “corporate science.” People often claim that all professional scientific literature is bought and paid for, biased, as if it’s some kind of conspiracy to keep “real” science (the YouTube version?) suppressed.

Let’s unpack this a bit. What would it take for such a conspiracy to exist? First, it would require millions upon millions of scientists to be in on it. That alone would be unwieldy, impossible given….humans. It would also require all universities and professors to be in on it. All regulatory agencies, medical establishments, and governments would also need to be working together. Do you see how crazy this gets?

Let’s look at some realities of how the scientific process works. There’s a specific reason that science, as a method of knowing, is seen to be self correcting. When someone puts forth a paper, it gets peer reviewed. Once it passes that process, which is often not easy, it gets published. This isn’t the endgame. This is the beginning. At this point, scientists from all over the world get to try and prove the results of that paper wrong. Doing so is one of the best ways to gain recognition as a scientist. This is especially true of a scientist can prove something well accepted to be wrong.

So, even if you provide a study as evidence of a claim, one solitary study doesn’t do it. That’s not how it works. Anything that can really be asserted in science with any certainty will have a large body of studies behind it. It will have been tried to be proven wrong many times without success.

We see this problem so often today as anti-vaxxers pull out the Wakefield study and anti-GMOers pull out the Seralini study. Not only are these singular studies, they’ve been discredited and retracted due to serious bias, dishonest practices, and poor methodology. That’s how science works.

So, when someone tries to first off a YouTube video, blog post, or a single poor study  as their primary source of evidence, you may need to explain how evidence works in science. They’re obviously doing it wrong.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.