Big Pharma is trippin’ over the shroom boom

Morgan Levy, Staff Writer

The pharmaceutical industry has a chokehold over the global economy and international health system. The trillion dollar industry emerged in the 1900s, as they developed drugs and treatments. In Gerald Posner’s book Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America,” he asserts that the addictive effects of Pharma’s manufactured drugs, along with a lack of government regulation, led to the skyrocketing of their drug sales and the valuing of profits over people. 

Big Pharma has a notable reputation of embellishing the cost of research and development of drugs. In an article by “Médecins Sans Frontières,” they write that “Big Pharma often says it costs the United States $2-3 billion to develop a new drug, other credible estimates are at least 10 times lower – in the $100-200 million range.” The lifeline of the pharmaceutical industry is profit, as they claim such profits are needed to fuel future innovation, yet most of these profits are often pocketed to boost their stock share prices and marketing. This benefits their corporate interests, and not research and development of medications, which contradicts the validity of Big Pharma producing for the advancement of public health. They fix their prices at a high point, which prevents accessibility to the drugs and vaccines they manufacture from the people who need them.

Despite Big Pharma’s dominance in the chain of public health provision, there is a new emergence that is threatening their “top dog” role in medicine: the shroom boom. Psilocybin mushrooms have become increasingly popular for recreational use. Despite the existing recreational reputation, there is an abundance of evidence that strongly suggests psychedelics as a treatment for mental health conditions: depression, PTSD, anxiety, etc. Dr. Michael Ehlers, the former Executive Vice President and Head of Research & Development at Biogen (BIIB), strongly believes that psychedelics and psychotherapy are the future of neuropsychiatric treatment. Ehlers accounts that psychedelic treatments are leading to remission of mental health conditions. 

Similar to cannabis, drugs originally used for recreational use are often discounted as not having medicinal proponents. Researchers and doctors began to study cannabis and found an abundance of medicinal uses: providing stress relief for those with anxiety disorders and lowering blood pressure or inflammation. Despite the existing stigma of cannabis use, the normalization of using the drug in medical treatments is becoming more normalized as states offer medical card programs. 

The studying of psilocybin is becoming more prioritized in research programs, which paves the way for psychedelics to be taken seriously as a valid medicinal treatment. For instance, in 2020, The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research was created, which allows for the studying of psilocybin, so more formal research can be produced to advocate for the validity of these substances in medicine. States are beginning to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, commencing with Denver, Colorado and other states, such as Washington, D.C. following suit. An increasing amount of psychedelic stocks are being invested in, while decriminalization efforts and clinical research projects are paving the way for shrooms to be taken seriously as a medication and treatment (Richardson, “Shroom Boom: The rise of Psilocybin”).

As we witnessed with cannabis legalization, Big Pharma sunk their claws into the industry and dominated its emergence, completely commercializing the product. So, why is Big Pharma trippin’ over the shroom boom? With the emergence of any new substance as a medical treatment, Big Pharma runs the risk of patients choosing alternative medicine rather than the drugs they develop. For instance, one may opt for psychedelic treatment instead of an SSRI prescription (which is developed and commoditized by Big Pharma).

According to Double Blind Magazine, an eighth of an ounce is considered the standard dosage for the full psychedelic experience, which costs anywhere from $20-$40. This cheaper cost provides more accessibility for patients seeking psychedelic therapy, which is a contributing factor to Big Pharma feeling threatened by the shroom boom. It is necessary for shroom manufacturers to resist Big Pharma domination, as this will lead to costs skyrocketing and profit becoming the sole purpose of production, not treatment for public health. It’s time Big Pharma stops trippin’ over profits and prioritizes the global health of humans over income.

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