Earlier this week, Congress once again made it abundantly clear they don’t give a damn about their constituents as they continue to serve the interests of Big Business and Corporate America – in this particular case, the pharmaceutical industry. The latest betrayal – an amendment that would have lowered drug prices across the board. That amendment was defeated by the GOP, aided and abetted by traitors in the Democratic Party. Thus, the price gouging will continue…and here are some examples of just how much these drug makers are gouging us.

Starting out on our list of the Top Ten Most Overpriced Drugs in America: Paxil (20 mg), an antidepressant from GlaxoSmithKline. A package of 100 tablets cost the company $7.50 to manufacture. However, when the consumer picks it up at the pharmacy window, they have to fork over $220.27. As far as markups go, this one is fairly moderate by industry standards: that is “only” 2,898%.

Next up on the list at Number Nine: Lipitor (20 mg), a product brought to us by the fine folks at Pfizer. Originally developed in the 1980s by Parke-Davis, this is a statin drug used to help control cholesterol levels. The manufacturing cost for 100 tablets is $5.80, but they’re charging patients $272.37 – representing a markup of 4,696%.

So far, these are among the smallest markups in the industry. Beyond these, the markups go into the five and even six-figure range. In the Number Eight position, we have Zoloft (50 mg), another antidepressant, another Pfizer product. These pills cost the company $1.75 to produce – and then, they turn around and sell it for $206.87. Markup: 11,821%.

At Number Seven, there is Celebrex (100 mg), which also comes from Pfizer. Generically known as celecoxib, this drug is an anti-inflammatory, used to treat pain and inflammation from arthritis. Producing 100 doses costs Pfizer a mere 0.60¢ – but the patient is going to fork over $130.27, representing a 21,712% markup.

The Number Six drug in this rogue’s gallery: Claritin (10 mg), a hay fever medication from (guess who?) Pfizer and marketed by Bayer. The active ingredients in a 100-pill bottle of Claritin cost only .0.71¢ – but once that bottle reaches pharmacy shelves, it up to $215.17 – a markup of 30,305%. Fortunately for hay fever sufferers, Claritin [lortadine] is available in generic form over the counter – but it’s still not cheap, so hopefully, you don’t have to deal with pollen very often.

At Number Five is Daraprim (25 mg), from Turing Pharmaceuticals. Many of you remember how the price of this toxoplasmosis (parasitic infection) treatment went up by 5000% last year after the company was taken over by an arrogant little snot named Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager. This pill costs only $2 to make – yet this greedy, conniving little bastard’s company charges patients $750 a pop. That’s a markup of 37,500% (in case you were curious).

Number Four on the list is Solvadi (400 mg), a treatment for Hepatitis C that is made by Gilead Sciences. In 2014, that drug generated $5.7 billion in sales for the company. Gilead’s cost for the pill is $1.78 – but U.S. patients are having to pay $1,000 apiece, which is a markup of 56,179%. It’s worth noting that in India, that same dosage of Solvadi costs under 273 rupees – which is equivalent to $4 USD.

At Number Three is Prilosec (20 mg), a proton pump inhibitor used to control serious, chronic cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Also known as omeprozole, this medication is manufactured by AstraZeneca. This drug maker spends 0.52¢ to produce 100 tablets – then turns around and sells them for $360.97, at a markup of 69,417%.

From here on out, the markups cross the line from obscene to ludicrous. Number Two on the list is Prozac (20 mg), made by Eli Lilly and Company. First developed in the 1980s, this is another antidepressant. In order to make 100 tablets, Eli Lilly spends 0.11¢ – but charges patients $247.47, marking up the price by a whopping 224,973%.

This brings us to Number One, which is (drum roll, please)…Xanax (1 mg). First developed as alprazolam in the late 1970s by Upjohn, this drug is now manufactured by (here we go again) Pfizer, which took over Upjohn in the 1990s. As far as manufacturing costs go, Xanax is especially cheap: it runs Pfizer less than two-and-a-half cents to produce 100 tablets. It’s also extremely profitable: the sale price for a package of 100 is (hold on to your hats) $136.79…and that is a markup of 569,958%.

This is only a small sample of how Big Pharma is sticking it to American health care consumers (let’s not forget Mylan and the EpiPen).

How can these corporate thieves and vampires justify these markups? If you ask some of their executives, they’ll give you the same old cock-and-bull story about how “expensive” the research and development is. Sorry folks – that fish won’t fry. First of all, many of these medications were developed decades ago. These companies acquired the original manufacturers through mergers, made a few minor (but not necessarily better) modifications to the formulas, and kept a lock on the patent. Secondly, the vast majority of research and development is carried out at taxpayer-funded universities. So again, that excuse is extremely weak.

No…these blood-sucking corporate “people” are interested in only one thing – maximizing their profits. They could care less whether natural humans live or die, just as long as their shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank and their CEOs can sit on their asses aboard their 14 karat plated yachts, sipping $1000-a-bottle champagne. And in order to make certain their cash cows keep producing, they have a small army of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, armed with boatloads of cash for their whores in Congress.

After Wednesday night’s betrayal, it is painfully obvious that we can expect no help from the lawmakers who were supposed to be representing us. Will we be forced to resort to torches and pitchforks? Or should we simply send our medical bills to our members of Congress? What do you think?

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.