I have been meaning to write this article for several weeks but the drug Cipro and its family of Quinolones have stolen the show and importance. But now that we know how dangerous they are and hopefully everyone is aware enough to not allow it to be prescribed to them (there are many safer alternatives!), maybe now it is time to show you the real bad, the evil, and all the sins pharmaceuticals do when it comes to their brand name drugs.
Some of you may have watched 60-Minutes Sunday night on CBS a couple of weekends ago but probably not everyone. I would like to take you to a segment of that 60-Minutes, and discuss that a little bit.
In short, we all know that drugs are very expensive and that those of us with medical insurance pay only a deductible. We also know that seniors on Medicare also just pay a deductible—usually 20% according to this video. There is nothing new or interesting about this until you listen to the rest of the story.
The first thing that I think most of us had no idea of is that Medicare or the insurance companies are not allowed to negotiate prices by law. They must pay whatever they are charged. This also explains (to me anyway) why hospitals and healthcare centers have such insane prices where a single headache medicine may be charged at $50. I now understand that the $50 is the cost to Medicare or the insurance company even if I can get the same drug in the drugstore over the counter for $1. So the first problem we are facing is Medicare and the insurance companies and their inability of negotiating a lower price. Note to self: investigate who the heck came up with this idea?!
The second problem we are facing of course is that in the US we pay much more for the same drugs than other countries pay and that comes down to the fact that the government in other countries can negotiate with pharmaceutical companies but in the US the government cannot. Note to self: Why can other governments negotiate and not the one that approved the drugs the first place?! Whose idea was that?
The third problem comes down to illegal activity actually. It appears to be legal but I am questioning that–it is certainly unethical and while ethics and law are typically not good friends, in this case I am questioning the legality of the practice. On the 60-Minutes segment you hear that the pharmaceutical company Sanofi came out with a cancer drug (colon cancer) called Zaltrap that they originally charged the doctors, insurance, and patients for $11,000 per month. An older drug called Avastin for the same cancer, working exactly the same miracle the same way, only reducing (possibly) the life expectancy after treatment by 42 days relative to Zaltrap, cost only $5,000. So this one particular hospital decided to not carry the new drug; it was too expensive and did not provide better outcome than the old (except for the 42 days of additional extended life) and had more toxic side effects as well. The hospital doctors published their opinion in The New York Times which then amazingly turned Sanofi around and said: OK doctor, I will sell you the drug for $5,000 provided you charge the insurance company and the patient $11,000. We will send you dear doctor a check for $6,000. This is an amazingly lucrative business! I suppose for unethical cancer doctors this is a lottery win equivalent.
The doctors also receive what is called “commission” of 6% when they prescribe a particular drug. I finally understand why a private doctor’s office is usually full of free samples!
I finally also understand why a family doctor of a relative of mine kept on switching the drug from the generic cholesterol pill Simvastatin, which was cheap and worked great without liver issues, to Lipitor, which did not work, cost a lot of money to Medicare, and caused a lot of liver issues. Every time I went to pick up a refill for Simvastatin for my relative, a bottle of Lipitor was waiting for me instead! I never accepted the change for health reasons of that family member but now I finally understand the cause! That family doctor was receiving 6% each time he prescribed the brand name Lipitor but nothing when he prescribed the generic Simvastatin so his unethical choice was to switch the prescription every time!
I bet it is happening to many people only they are not as vigilant about checking what they are getting and why, as I am. I called this doctor and gave him my opinion… no need to repeat it… you know what I said. I am glad I fired him and switched my relative to another family doctor.
It is good to know that the medicine we pay $1,000 for in the US is available to other countries for $300 or less. Apparently their governments can negotiate and refuse if they do not like the prices. But our government, Medicare, insurance companies, and the ill are powerless!
Can anyone please explain why the US Government, Medicare and the insurance companies cannot negotiate? Will the people responsible for this craziness please this stand up and show your faces? I bet they won’t dare!
Your comments are welcome as always!