The Miracle of Medicine and the Fleecing of its Users

Leave it to the media to title an article but never present the other side of the coin.  What’s the other side of the coin you ask?  Just how much is enough for the price of a human liver and just how many people must die before the cost and idea of making millions are replaced by the desire to do good?  The article is written by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and it is titled “$1,000-per-pill drug overtaken by pricier successor” for the Associated Press.  In the article it details a whole host of things like “the $1,000 pill for a liver-wasting viral infection that made headlines last year is no longer the favorite of patients and doctors.  The new leading pill for hepatitis C is more expensive, and the number of patients seeking a cure has surged.  Sovaldi, last year's wonder drug, has been pushed aside by a successor called Harvoni, made by the same company. The sticker price for Harvoni is $1,350 a pill.”  Noticed that the same company improved their product and felt the urge that the improvement to help more people finally get relief from hepatitis C should also have the price improved as well.  The keys to why are found later on in the article with statements like “Hepatitis C affects some 3 million people in the U.S. and claims more lives here than AIDS. With the new drugs, patients finally have a choice among highly effective cures with minimal side effects. Previous treatments were hit and miss, and many patients couldn't tolerate the side effects. But new found choice doesn't seem to have led to widespread price competition.  "As a society we need a way of determining what is a reasonable price at the time of introduction of a new drug," said Stephen Schondelmeyer, a University of Minnesota professor who specializes in pharmaceutical economics. "We have expanded coverage, but we haven't done anything to control costs on the pricing side."  “Gilead spokeswoman Cara Miller said the company is working with public programs and private insurers to broaden access. Gilead estimates that 80 percent of insured people with hepatitis C have coverage for its medications.  "We are pleased that many payers have recognized the value of our single-tablet regimen for hepatitis C and, in most cases, have chosen to open up broad access on their formulates," Miller said. The company says its drugs will save the system money in the long run.” 

So now we see the other side of the coin and to me, it isn’t a pretty picture considering that in the beginning of many of those scientists’ careers, the majority was looking to do something to help people but those running the show saw something else.  The rise of users and the ability to charge as much as they wished to for the drug makes a millionaire out of so many in so short of time while the other side of the coin means that those who entered this field to help has to live with comments like this.  “Hepatitis C is complex, and treatments differ for its subtypes. Patients say it feels like a deep, never-ending fatigue. While the disease advances gradually, it can ultimately destroy the liver, and transplants average $577,000. It's also a public health concern, since it can be transmitted by contact with infected blood, by drug users sharing needles, and sometimes through sexual activity.  Daniel Rosario, a New Yorker who works in retail, said his insurer would not pay for Harvoni because his hepatitis C hadn't advanced to the point of severe liver damage. He finally got his prescription at no charge through Gilead's patient assistance program, which took into account his income.  "I would have had to basically deplete my entire retirement," Rosario said. "As much as I wanted to be cured, I would have not gone through the treatment and waited for another option."


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