Rx prices run amok
I’ll link to some reading on this problem as we go—obviously, only offering a very rudimentary picture of this very complex issue.
I’m blessed in so very many ways, like, I’m free of any need to take prescription medications. Of course, I have casually overheard many discussions about high drug prices. However, until this week I had never previously met the occasion to personally experience the legal strong arm robbery that occurs thousands of times a day in pharmacies all across America. Well, ‘strong arm robbery’ may be a bit harsh, but it felt just as I imagine being exploited at the risk of life/health must feel.
We hear many stories of how prices on the very same medicines are much cheaper in other countries. Because the U.S. system allows drug makers to set their own prices without regulation, being the world leader in pharmaceutical innovation bears a serious cost to the U.S. Rx consumer. A Vox article from last May (2018) fairly well outlines some basic factors leading to sky-rocketing drug prices; Sarah Kliff’s (article) concluding question:
“Are we, as a country, comfortable paying higher prices for drugs to get more innovation? Or would we trade some of that innovation to make our drugs more accessible to those of all income levels?”
The pharmaceutical industry is largely a product of the values attending the Orange [ER] vMEME—e.g., world-aware, nation-state, rational, individualistic, scientific, ‘formal operational reasoning,’ democratic, innovative, capitalistic, modern values.
Even given purely market driven forces as in the U.S.A., with emerging superbugs, it’s noteworthy that, for reasons outlined by Pharmaceutical Journal, even market incentives have not been able to ward-off what may soon prove to be a catastrophic failure to produce new antibiotics (article). The United Kingdom’s superbug tsar, Lord Jim O’Neill, thinks nationalized drug manufacturers may be necessary to effectively deal with the antibiotic shortfall difficulty in a timely fashion (article).
Personal current events
Well, I’d been having an issue with my ears, mostly the left one. Finally, a week ago Saturday, I decided I needed to have it looked at so I went to a nearby immediate care clinic offered by one of the local hospital groups. Wonderful doctor and caregivers. Doctor said I had eczema (dry skin) that had developed a “light staphylococcus aureus” infection. She wrote me a prescription for some ear drops, a topical cream, and an oral antibiotic, and they called it in to Walgreens.
Later, I went to pick-up my medications. The doctor wanted me to start with the drops and topical cream first, and, then, two or three days later, if necessary, add the oral antibiotics. The druggist asked me, “Do you have a supplement to your medicare parts A&B?”
I said, “No.”—because, I didn’t opt for a Part D supplemental when I went on Medicare as I don’t take any regular medications.
Her reply, “Well, the drops are $270 and the cream is $80.”
I responded, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
On Monday I called the clinic and explained that while their care was fabulous, I had no budget for the cure. Imagining they’re offering the latest, best option on medicines, I wondered if they could recommend an older, premium-free option. I ended up with eye drops (for my ears) and an oral antibiotic. Nine dollars each! Note: the medicines worked very well!
Greed feeds on the dynamics at play with healthcare in general, but especially with life-saving and life-sustaining pharmaceutical drugs. These drugs are not a discretionary matter to real human beings. Finding examples of greed in the system is not difficult. We remember Martin Shkreli, the former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals. He recently went to prison for seven years for his very greedy activities—arbitrarily marking-up the price of a life-saving HIV drug, Daraprim, by five thousand percent (article). Marathon Pharmaceuticals, a more recent example, escorted a generic drug (already available elsewhere in the world for $1,000 to $2,000 a year) through the FDA process and now markets it in the U.S. under the fancy brand name, “Emflaza,” for a list price of $89,000, a six thousand percent increase (article). Perhaps on a less sensational level, the price increases on insulin is a very sore topic among many families as those costs have been climbing at alarming rates—doubling in cost from 2012 to 2016 (article).
I realize everyone can’t just demand a cheaper option for everything in every instance.
Still, could we somehow close the $350 –> $18 gap?
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?