Sunday, March 12, 2006

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Well, it didn't take long for the day to get jump-started. Pooring a cup of coffee, sitting down at the computer, the first story I read was of poor Joyce Elkins, a 63 year old retiree who has a rare from of lymphoma. She has to take a drug called Mustargen. It's an ointment and is among the oldest of chemotherapy drugs, having been around for nearly sixty years.

When she filled the prescription last month she paid $77.50. But a funny thing happened when she went in for a refill. She discovered her cost of Mustargen had increased to $548.01! Because her lymphoma is severe, she uses two refills of this drug/month. Completing the regimen prescribed by her doctor will now cost nearly $7,000. Oh, and did I mention (you probably know what I'm gonna say next), her insurance doesn't cover it?

This story is just an example of how pharmaceutical companies can raise the price of their drugs at will. The maker of Mustargen, Ovation, said that the price increases were needed to invest in manufacturing facilities for the drugs. That's a little like Ford Motor Company saying they have to raise the price of your $25,000 Ford to a $175,000 in order to upgrade their plant facilities.

But what's happened to the cost of Mustargen is nothing unique. Genentech has indicated it will effectively double the cost of Avastin, a colon cancer drug, to $100,000 when it begins use as a breast and lung cancer treatment drug.

Last year Genetech raised the price of its Tarceva, a lung-cancer drug, by about 30 percent, to $32,000 for a year's treatment because it "works better than Genentech had anticipated." I guess because people won't need as much of it because of its efficacy, the company had to make up for the unanticipated shortfall in planned revenues by overcharging you.

So, this is just another story that reminds me why I despise capitalism as much as communism, fascism, despotism or just about any other ism. The FDA does not control prices and Medicare is banned from negotiating down drug prices. So, we have a government bought and paid for by special interests for special interests.

If, as in the case of Joyce Elkins, your budget is stretched to the breaking point and paying for the medicine comes at the cost of spending less on utilities and food, pray you get well before you freeze or starve to death. As regrettable as it is that she had the misfortune to get sick, we can take consolation knowing her drug company needs to "invest in facilities." Hopefully, that doesn't cost Elkins her life.

Rest assured, your government's doing everything it can for you, i.e., they're sitting on their hands, squeezing tightly the wads of wampum stuffed down their britches by special interests. It's a problem nobody wants to do anything about, because those in positions to do anything aren't so inclined.

So while the capitalists run amok, with more and more freedom to regulate themselves because the government has abrogated its responsibilty to do so, we'll just have to "take it" in the wallet until enough of us have had enough of it. Until then, be content to turn down the heat, skip a meal and skrimp; pray you heal; pray your pharmaceutical company, your insurance company, and your government doesn't kill you before you cure.

Increasingly, the only way Americans are going to be able to lower the costs of their drug expenses will be to die.

Data source: New York Times


enigma4ever said...

Wow...really painful to read...the nurse weeps, pounds keyboard and curses so that both animals are now hiding...although they will be out soon cause they know it is Sunday- Mama makes chicken just for them and cookies...How you doing Dada.....

dada said...

Hi e4e! Gee, how nice to see your coy face hinting of a smile every morning.

Am doing good. Pony's really on the mend since weening off the drugs, but she's still getting chicken everyday to entice her appetite, which seems just fine with her.

Listen, I soooo apologize. I've been going to make over to the Enigma Cafe since late Saturday. (I was there earlier Sat. I think...the days kinda run together). But I want to just sit with a cup of coffee and listen to the comments of your wonderful patrons (and your snappy, sometimes snippy retorts--grin). I WILL make it!