Big Food, Big Pharma and Our Health
On April 12th, 2018, two of the most prominent doctors in the UK health system raised their voice against pervasive unjust practices that have taken grip of the health and wellbeing of residents in Europe and across the world. Speaking out about Big Pharma and Big Food, these two frank and honest doctors sought to bring to light many of the problems that are appearing in health systems around the globe, that are arguably caused by the people who we are supposed to trust to make us healthy.
Used as a blanket term to define large food and beverage companies, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) defines Big Food as “the multinational food and beverage industry with huge and concentrated market power.” In essence, it offers a name to companies that are offering products for us which claim to preserve and support our health – food and drink – when in reality, these companies care very little about our health and act with ulterior, profit driven motives in mind.
The ten largest food companies, which constitute Big Food,control over half of the food sales in the United States andunderwrite the 75% of processed foods which make up the world’s sales of edible products.They are the driving force behind the massive increase in sugar sweetened beverage consumption worldwide, which has contributed as one of the leading causes of higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, their penetration into the market has been linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and long-term weight gain, and their mass marketing campaigns mean they are not relinquished to only remain in developed countries: indeed their prevalence and control means they are the main reason why the world is slowly transitioning from mainstay, healthy, traditional diets, to highly processed foods instead.
These massive shifts within the food industry, which are negatively affecting the worldwide population at large, make it increasingly clear that Big Food is not in this for the desire to preserve our health. In fact, many people are calling it a nutritional failure, whereby these global food producers have been left to run our global food systems and the result is a mess we can’t dig ourselves out of any time soon.
But they are not acting alone in contributing to the large-scale health issues experienced by much of the worldwide populous. They are helped by a second player, Big Pharma, composed of a conglomerate ofinfluential contributors in the pharmaceutical industry, which includes the pharmaceutical lobby, pharmaceutical research, and manufacturers, and many more. Collectively, they “seek enormous profits,” at the cost of the “health and wellbeing of the humans they serve.”
Drug companies have become the foundation player in much of the corruption that has occurred to the healthcare industry, whereby consumers are now prescribed drugs they don’t need, for problems they may or may not have, and are often just receiving a Band-Aid solution that will ultimately leave them needing more drugs. Rather than being offered basic lifestyle solutions, they are sent away with pharmaceutical products that in the end just leave the question of how soon they’ll be back and how much of a higher dose they will need upon their return.
It is this lack of regard for human health and wellbeing, the absence of transparency to the public in regards to the evidence and efficacy of drugs, and the fact that drug companies are simply developing medicines that they can profit from that led influential doctors to speak out against these two worldwide monsters.
Calling it an “epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients,” Dr. Aseem Malhorta deems commercial conflicts of interest are at the crux of the problem. Malhorta is an NHS cardiologist who has seen firsthand how often patients are given drugs that are useless, sometimes harmful, and certainly not necessary, with the NHS ‘over-treating’ its patients without proper consideration for sometimes fatal side effects.
Partnering with Sir Richard Thompson, former-president of the Royal College of Physicians and personal doctor to the Queen for 21 years, Malhorta and Thompson are speaking out and saying it is time for a “full and open public enquiry,” into the way Big Pharma and Big Food operate and the impacts they have on the public.
The doctors go on to offer substantiation for the weak evidence and lack of ambiguity that often presents surrounding drugs that doctors are told to prescribe, explaining how the full trial data on the drug type, statins, was never published: the results may raise awareness among the public that their statin prescription is not necessarily warranted or as critical to their survival as they were led to believe. This is in line with the Malhorta’s and Thompson’s claims that public funding for medical research is allocated where it is profitable for Big Pharma, not beneficial for patients, and that many innocent people have simply been lured into the current “more medicine is better,” culture.
Pioneers in the fight to raise public awareness around Big Food and Big Pharma and to act to improve, instead of worsening the health of the public, Malhorta and Thompson are backed by a series of professors, fellow doctors, and medical journalists as they seek to bring these fallacies and blatant lies to the forefront of the world’s current health crisis.
Meeting together in a panel to present to the European Parliament, the influential authorities in their respective fields were simply seeking to expose how “Big Food and Big Pharma are killing millions of people,” while we are all left blaming obesity and heart disease. The panel offered insight into how the pharmaceutical companies, coupled with the big players in the food and beverage industry, have a disproportionately endorsed influence into policy surrounding food and drug production and dispersion. As such they are able to coerce doctors into prescribing unnecessary drugs and harmful treatments; they drive deceitful lobbying practices which propel profits; andtheir products, in essence,maintain chronic health conditions across the globe as fed by sugar, inaccurate health claims and overall false information to unknowing members of the public.
While the panel and presentation didn’t finish with a unified solution or aconcrete strategy towards finding a resolution, it did achieve what it set out to do: increase exposure, raise awareness and bring into the open the pervasiveness not of the problem itself, but of the main players and supporters who are feeding it. Big Pharma and Big Food won’t be eradicated overnight but making sure people know about what they are actually doing, every day and night is the first step on that quest and in the pursuit of change for healthcare, wellness, andthe survivability of our globe and its people.
Victor Chapela is Co-founder & CEO of Suggestic, a Silicon Valley-based company whose mission is to help individuals make optimal food choices for weight loss, disease prevention and health improvement by using artificial intelligence to combine personal preferences with behavioral cues and the latest nutrition science.