ONE POLITICIAN WHO APPARENTLY GETS IT
LOUISIANA’S HEALTH SECRETARY, REBEKAH GEE, AND THE HIGH PRICE OF HEP-C TREATMENT
Hepatitis C is a not uncommon viral disease among middle agers hitting them the hardest among the population and is caused by the transmission of a virus through the blood from intravenous drug use, blood transfusions and infected tattoo devices among other direct blood contact. If untreated, it can cause severe liver damage and eventually death. The cure for Hepatitis C is relatively easy – normally a 12 week treatment of anti-viral drugs designed to combat the virus.
As with so many such treatments that rely on intensive drug intervention, the anti-viral Hep C treatment drugs are expensive costing anywhere up to $94,500 for a 12 week program. What this means is that states have rationed treatments under Medicaid by waiting until infected people suffer severe liver damage before allowing for treatment. If this sounds perverse – waiting until someone gets sicker before starting treatment - you would be correct. But this is the state of affairs today under what is loosely called our American “health care system.”
But along comes Louisiana’s Secretary of Health, Rebekah Gee (an obstetrician and gynecologist) who apparently sees this situation the way you and I do and has decided to do something about it. She is considering the “radical” move of asking the Federal Government to intervene to drive prices down by overriding the patent protections that drug companies hold over their high priced medications. This intervention has been successful in the past, particularly in the 1950’s when big pharma wasn’t so big and powerful as it is today and such intervention is provided for under U.S. law. What this would mean is that the government could use the drug company patents and presumably allow competing drug companies to make the drug to drive down the cost of a 12 week Hep C treatment to around $1,000.
Naturally, our drug company corporate partners will say that this will deprive them of the funds needed to do research and development into new drugs and new treatments if their patents are taken over by the government. Well, what the drug companies won’t tell you is that nearly all initial research into the development into new lines of drugs is funded through the government by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control among other Federal agencies. And additionally what the drug companies won’t tell you is that much of their R&D goes towards developing competing drugs of existing block buster drugs that Bayer and Pfizer make billions off of annually and not in the development of new drugs.
How this works is easy if particularly perverse. Say Big Pharma Company A has developed a drug for the treatment of Leukemia, for example, received a patent from the Government for it and charges and arm and a leg for the drug and is making Big Bucks off of it. Well, Big Pharma Drug Company B sees the mega bucks BPC A is making and wants in on the deal. So they will alter one molecule of the money making drug and get a patent for its “new” version, pay some drug manufacturer (in India most often) to make the drug and then they too can make the big bucks off what is basically the same drug with a minor alteration that does not impact the drug’s effectiveness but provides BPC B with a huge cash cow.
This is how Big Pharma works. This system is clearly not designed with you and me in mind but only how much money Bayer and Pfizer can make off of us. I mean, what kind of health care system allows this kind of price gouging when people’s lives are at stake? What kind? Well, it’s called the Free Market Capitalist System and Big Pharma loves it.
So I’m hoping that Dr. Gee is successful in her efforts to thwart the drug company’s stranglehold over us since Congress doesn’t seem able to do a thing about it. Some not insignificant portion of the big bucks Big Pharma rakes in annually goes towards “influencing” Senators and Representatives into doing their bidding. It’s called “lobbying” and its been quite successful for decades now. And we all know that the United States is the only Western nation on the planet that does not permit the government to negotiate prices for drugs even though the Feds are the biggest of Big Parma’s customers. Pretty perverse, right?
It remains to be seen if Gee will prevail. She and the state of Louisiana are facing one of the most powerful of lobby groups in the country and you can be guaranteed that they will fight her tooth and nail over this. But I am a bit heartened over this development just like the refusal of now more than half of the states in the country have refused to turn over voting records to Trump’s bogus Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. This too is the result of the "Trump Effect." Oh, and the title of this little Trump gem of a public action? Yeah. Probably one of the most perverse title’s for a national commission since the “Ministry of Truth” emerged out of the publication of George Orwell’s “1984” back on June 8, 1949.
Resistance Can Work!
Here’s the link to the full article: COUNTERING HIGH DRUG PRICES