I've Got A Movie Idea For You, Woody Harrelson
Last night, Woody Harrelson — a very good actor who has always been a little off — hosted "Saturday Night Live."
During his opening monologue, he indulged in a thinly veiled attack on pharmaceutical companies and vaccines by talking about how he had a script for a movie with a plot so ridiculous he just threw it away.
\u201cSad day waking up and finding out that Woody is one of those tinfoil hat wearing idiots\u201d— Wu-Tang is for the Children (@Wu-Tang is for the Children) 1677414909
“So the movie goes like this," Harrelson explained. "The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians, and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes, and people can only come out if they take the cartel's drugs. And keep taking them over and over.”
And then there's the M. Night Shyamalan twist of "the drugs are free and if people don't take them, they will get sick and make other people sick and a decent amount of those people will die or at the very least take up all the beds in emergency rooms and cause other people to die because they can't get treated for other health emergencies?"
Naturally, there were tons of admirers swooning over Harrelson "taking on Big Pharma," which is not what this was. The issue with "Big Pharma" is not that they create life-saving drugs or any other drugs in the first place, or that people have to take vaccines during an epidemic, it is that they fuck us over by charging exorbitant prices for those drugs. We have in fact created a whole system in which they are able to absolutely fuck us in order to turn a profit and gas fills whatever container it is in.
We have a system in which our tax dollars go to pay for "innovation," in which we literally pay to have these drugs created in the first place — our tax dollars funded, in part, the development of every new pharmaceutical from 2010 to 2020. We have a system in which, instead of our government buying these drugs in bulk like practically every other nation on earth and negotiating that Costco discount, we all pay retail. Like suckers.
And then we claim that it's worth it to overpay because we're funding research and development, which we're actually not doing very much at all.
Now, I'm not saying that pharmaceutical companies are not profiting off of the vaccines. Of course they are. But because we did things the right way with this, they were not able to fuck us nearly as much as they might have otherwise been able to. Of course, because this is America, our government will cease buying vaccines in bulk this fall and they will cost us up to $130 a pop.
The thing that kills me is that this is the thing that makes people think pharmaceutical companies are corrupt. Like, they're okay with people spending over $300 a month for insulin, they're okay with these companies forming PACs and spending millions to woo politicians to their favor, they're okay with Epi-pens being $700. They're okay with pharmaceutical companies being allowed to advertise on television. Or, at least, they're not particularly het up about these things.
They have no problem claiming, with a straight face, that we have to pay so much more than the rest of the world does for medications because these poor companies need that money to fund research and development, when we know for a fact that they are not doing that. When we know for a fact that most of their profits go towards further enriching themselves and their investors through dividends and stock buybacks. When we know that much of the money earmarked for "research and development" ends up going towards making teeny tiny changes to existing drugs explicitly for the purpose of getting to file new patents on them and continue charging exorbitant prices.
They ignore the fact that we spend more on healthcare per capita than any other developed country while having the worst health outcomes.
But what finally gets these people upset at pharmaceutical companies, what makes Woody Harrelson decide to take a big stand on Saturday Night Live, is a vaccine that they don't have to pay for. That's where the greed is just too much for them. Let's make that movie, okay? Or don't, because it wouldn't be all that interesting. It's mostly just pretty sad.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would actually start to think that these complaints about "Big Pharma" and the vaccine were put out there by Big Pharma themselves to make everyone who complains about them look like an idiot conspiracy theorist. To make the term "Big Pharma" itself seem annoying and ridiculous. I don't believe that, of course, but they really couldn't have come up with a better plan to discredit legitimate criticism if they tried.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse