The magic pill

I have a colleague who I have worked with for well over 12 years, who I consider a good friend. He has talked me off the cliff a number of times with respect to how to approach issues at work or with employees etc. He is a stand up individual and one hell of a leader. I have enjoyed watching him grow and I also enjoy how he plays while at work, so as to reduce the monotony that persists in the Information Technology field. I will of course not use his real name although I am certain if he ever reads this he will know it is him. I will refer to him from here to forward as Wayne.

Many moons ago in his youth Wayne weighed in at about 180 lbs and was lean given his 6 foot or so stature.  Now a days this is not the case. Life has happened. 25 years later, a wife, kids and a career in IT, Wayne is over 300 lbs and was just recently put on blood pressure medication. Wayne eats what he wants and exercises via hikes with the kids on the weekends. At most he is a weekend warrior but I think the instances of physical movement are decreasing as the days pass. I have attempted to have conversations with him about how I could help him get off the medication with some fairly simple lifestyle changes but he gets defensive. I get it, I was the same way when I was a smoker. I didn’t want to hear about the how or why I needed to change my life and stop inflicting terminal harm on myself.

What is the underlying foundation to this defensiveness?. Is it loss of control? Why should I listen to you? You think I want to be an ultra runner or a vegan? Do you think you are better than me? Is this ego as the underlying defensive gut response or is it something deeper? Why should I change what I eat or what I do in the way of physical activity if I have a pill that reduces my blood pressure and consequently reduces my appetite? I can keep living the life I live now and not have to make any adjustments. I can take this one pill. Although I stopped watching television 8 years ago I do remember that it was advertisement after advertisement promoting some new pill to address obesity, or depression, or erectile dysfunction. Let’s for a second take a step back and look at how much the pharmaceutical industry invests in advertising and then look at the gross profits that are the net result:


World’s largest pharmaceutical firms
Company Total revenue ($bn) R&D spend ($bn) Sales and marketing spend($bn) Profit ($bn) Profit margin (%)
Johnson & Johnson (US) 71.3 8.2 17.5 13.8 19
Novartis (Swiss) 58.8 9.9 14.6 9.2 16
Pfizer (US) 51.6 6.6 11.4 22.0 43
Hoffmann-La Roche (Swiss) 50.3 9.3 9.0 12.0 24
Sanofi (France) 44.4 6.3 9.1 8.5 11
Merck (US) 44.0 7.5 9.5 4.4 10
GSK (UK) 41.4 5.3 9.9 8.5 21
AstraZeneca (UK) 25.7 4.3 7.3 2.6 10
Eli Lilly (US) 23.1 5.5 5.7 4.7 20
AbbVie (US) 18.8 2.9 4.3 4.1 22
Source: GlobalData


Based on the chart above one can deduce that most companies spend more on marketing than they do on research.  Let’s partake in another mental exercise by removing television and advertising as the medium of exposure to big pharma. Maybe you are like me and don’t get your information from television. Perhaps you have gone to the doctor and she recommends you take this pill to combat a particular ailment. Have you asked her why one would take pill X over pill Y? Has she ever taken any money or received any gifts to promote pill X? What would one take three years ago for this same ailment if pill X is the latest and greatest? Is this a rebranding or minor change to the compound so as to refile for a patent since generics are now available. I know this litany of questions is coming across as if I should doff my tin foil hat and join reality. But this is our reality! We have lost our ability to take a step back and analyze what may be causing our underlying health issues? These questions I ask are not rhetorical they are for you to answer.

I feel like as a culture we have become lazy or have lost sight of how to take care of ourselves. We have ignored the reality and age old proverb of you are what you eat. I say garbage in equals garbage out. The dawn of fast food and factory farming has led to foodstuffs that have little to no nutrient value but have large caloric values. Meaning it is cheaper to eat fast food if you measure price as a function of calories. Fast food is not cheap if you measure price as a function of nutrients.  I digress this is a separate blog post as the topic is something that I am very passionate about and have extremely strong opinions.

Wayne sits on his haunches for most of the day and typically goes out to eat. He eats meals that are rich in animal fat and dense in calories. For example Wayne would go eat at a local burger joint and then follow it up with a shake from dairy queen then come back and sit at his desk for a few hours and then go home to eat again and fall asleep watching television with the family. Do you as a reader see the problem in this? Do you think that perhaps this is why he is obese and has high blood pressure? The pill has reduced his blood pressure and has reduced his appetite. So it comes across to him as though it is working. I think most of us would agree this is definitely a much easier route. Taking a pill is exponentially easier than getting out and exercising at lunch and eating a plant based diet. I think the easier route is sending an interesting message to his family. Specifically his children will see that it’s acceptable to ignore their health or ignore what they are eating or consuming because the wonders of the pharmaceutical industry will save them from their poor choices.

This is a dangerous premise to base the rest of your life. It to me is no different than becoming dependent on an opiate, tobacco or alcohol. By placing your faith in the pharmaceutical industry to help you maintain your blood pressure or whatever other ailment is dependency based off of convenience, which is what has fueled the high margins of profit in the pharmaceutical industry. I read somewhere a while ago that if you live a lie long enough it becomes part of your tradition. Traditions are what make a culture a culture. I think that if you base your life off of the lie’s that big pharma are promoting it becomes a fact of life for you. Acceptable and consequently, part of the culture that you exist in. Take a look around and be mindful of what you are exposing yourself to and your children and or friends. Depending on a medication for something that can be fixed by paying attention to what you consume is a lie. It is a lie to yourself. It is a lie to your body. It is a lie to the ones that depend on you.

The way to a healthy body and healthy mind is rooted in consumption of a plant rich diet and frequent exercise. It is much easier than you think. The difficulty is facing the lie you have been living. Confronting truth is much harder because it exposes our insecurities about how we measure ourselves.

Be mindful of all life

Be humble

Be healthy

Be happy