Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Costly Drugs" and the Profit Factor

This is exactly the kind of thing that makes my head spin:

Cutting Dosage of Costly Drug Spurs a Debate

In short, this drug called "Cerezyme", which treats a rare disease called "Gouchers", costs an average patient $300,000 a year. Some doctors are saying that the recommended dosage is too high, in a drug-company effort to boost profits (which for this drug are 90%). Others dispute this and say the dosing is accurate.

Two things I noticed from this article:

1. They got the recipe from the US government:
"...the early work on the treatment was done by the National Institutes of Health, which gave Genzyme a contract to manufacture it. And analysts estimate the current cost of manufacturing the drug to be only about 10 percent of its price."

2. The extent to which consumers suffer on account of expensive medical treatments:

"Ms. Mangum began treatment in 2000, at a cost of more than $400,000 a year. The next year, the premiums for everyone in her insurance pool went up by $180 a month."

I wonder how many people there are in an "insurance pool"?

Then there are drugs that cure diseases, but bringing them to market would be so unprofitable that drug manufacturers don't want to touch them.

The Calgary Sun reported last year:

"Cancerous tumours can be shrunk without radiation by administering a drug already used safely in humans for decades, says a doctor whose research is creating a major buzz in medical circles. But because the drug cannot be patented, pharmaceutical companies won't be eager to fund clinical trials to bring it to market, leaving its future in question." (Full article available for a fee)

These are instances where the Federal government could step in, and it would be difficult to convince even the most hard-core conservative to cry "socialized medicine".

Why can't our World Super Power, state-of-the-art National Institute of Health manufacture these drugs that are unprofitable and/or outrageously expensive and make them available to patients that need them, especially in instances where the NIH came up with the drug in the first place? Manufacturers could would have the choice of lowering the price or losing their right to manufacture the product. It could be taken by eminent domain, just like they take homes that have been in families for generations in order to build grocery stores and the like.

The tax burden would be offset many, many times by the savings to insurance and medical consumers, and to taxpayers in Medicare savings. To me it seems an simple solution. Call it price capping, but only pharmaceutical company stockholders would complain, once faced with the facts.

Please contact your lawmakers and share your concerns.

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