‘My Drug Dealer Was a Doctor’

A new song by hip hop artist Macklemore is a pointed criticism of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical establishment.

Grammy-award-winning hip hop artist Macklemore has released a song that is a pointed indictment of the medical and pharmaceutical industry, and takes a kick at Congress too.

The song describes the US medical system as one where patients are misled about the safety of medicines, doctors prescribe pills such as Ambien, Adderall, Xanax and Percocet because “Big Pharma” pays them to, and says that those drugs lead to dependency, addiction, harder drugs and death.

Macklemore has been public about his own struggles with drugs and alcohol. He has said he experimented with OxyContin, the opioid painkiller at the center of a national epidemic, when he was younger. Macklemore described his addiction to OxyContin to MTV News as “synthetic heroin.”

Why should you, I or “Big Pharma” care what Macklemore says in a hip-hop song? It has more than 6.3 million views on YouTube since being released on October 25. You can’t buy enough ads to counter those impressions.

The refrain of the song illustrates well how drug companies influence doctors to prescribe drugs even though they may be dangerous:

My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

He said that he would heal me, heal me

But he only gave me problems, problems

My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

I think he trying to kill me, kill me

He tried to kill me for a dollar, dollar

Confidence in the good intent of doctors and the pharmaceutical industry is under assault. The deaths from addictions started by prescriptions and the near-viral spread of addiction has caught the attention of this generation. Macklemore is unwilling to shoulder the blame for his generation’s addictions alone. Instead, he is pointing a finger directly at the pharmaceutical companies:

Paying out Congress so we take their drugs

Murderers who will never face the judge

I hope you share the shame I feel at the end of the song when Macklemore recites the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer as his benediction. How have so many people been harmed so much? While he’s blaming doctors for his addictions, but he’s taking responsibility for his own recovery.

There are a few bad people in every industry (we’ve all heard of “pill mills”) but I can’t bring myself to believe or agree with Macklemore’s theory that doctors write prescriptions because they are paid to and that pharma companies create drugs that addict on purpose to make more money. But it begs the question: Many lives depend on the efficacy and honesty of pharmaceutical company work. Yet as for profit companies, they have a fiduciary responsibility to make the most profit (return) for shareholders. Shouldn’t pharmaceutical companies’ mission allow and require that human health and safety come before profit? Don’t pharmaceutical companies and doctors both share in the tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm”?

We need to listen to Macklemore because he’s speaking for a generation. We need to ruthlessly examine our medical system to determine any kernel of truth in the accusations of this song. And if we find any truth, we need to fix it. For Macklemore is right when he says:

But this shit’s been going on from Seattle out to South Philly

It just moved out about the city

And spread out to the ‘burbs

Now it’s everybody’s problem, got a nation on the verge

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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