103863363-GettyImages-148302547-2.530x298

The Price Of Patented Medicines Is Costing Some Patients Their Lives

Is Bernie Sanders right that people are dying because of the prices of patented medicines? If so, how many? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Mitul Mehta, MD, Vitreoretinal (eye) Surgeon at UC Irvine, on Quora:

It is certainly true that people are dying because of the prices of patented medicines. I don’t have the statistics, but if patients do not have Medicare part D coverage and secondary insurance, they could be paying thousands of dollars per month for medicine if they have to take branded drugs.

Most of these drugs are for chronic ailments like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and they do have generic alternatives, but sometimes these generics do not work for people.

There are a few drugs that I use as a second line for the treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), that cost nearly $2,000 per treatment (which is often monthly). That’s just the cost of the drug. The cheaper drug is still a brand name but because it is not FDA approved for use in the eye (and was not designed for that purpose), it comes in a bigger vial that a compounding pharmacy can divide into multiple doses. This drug costs $40–50 per dose. We are talking about a 50 times price difference!

The problem is that it does not work as well for some people and because it is compounded, and it has a much much higher risk of catastrophic infection (that can cause blindness) and possibly heart attacks (debatable).

So if the cheaper drug doesn’t work and you have to pay the 20%, then you are paying $400 per month just for the medicine. That does not include the doctor injecting it or examining you (probably a $20–$50 copay). And that is if you have insurance.

Before people start calling drug companies evil, realize there are two sides to every story.

  1. These drugs cost billions of dollars to develop and get through the FDA and take years before they are on the market. They have to make big profits to make up for the money and time spent.
  2. The drug companies (Genentech and Regeneron) have been very generous with programs for people who make less than $100,000 per year and can get their deductibles waived. They don’t have to do that.
  3. These companies employ a lot of people. 810,000, according to the 2012 economic census.
  4. The drugs they develop are the things that save people’s lives to begin with. If you took all of these scientists and cut their salaries because you are setting drug prices for the private market (what Sanders wants), then not as many of them will want to work in pharma. Instead they will go into finance (which I almost did). Now, I think Medicare should be able to negotiate just like Blue Shield does, but when you have a single payer system, it would be setting prices and it will lead to a stifling environment for innovation.

So my claim is that the solution is not to set drug prices, but rather to:

  1. Expand drug coverage like George W. Bush did with Medicare part D (something he never gets credit for) but go further and pressure the private insurers to do the same.
  2. Have Medicare negotiate drug prices.
  3. Make it easier for generics to be sold in the United States (this would have solved the Daraprim problem).
  4. Streamline the approval process. It costs way too much to navigate the FDA.

Source: Forbes

Posted by:  The Wealthy Doctor

Permalink: http://wealthy-doctor.com/the-price-of-patented-medicines-is-costing-some-patients-their-lives/

The Price Of Patented Medicines Is Costing Some Patients Their Lives - overview

Summary: It is certainly true that people are dying because of the prices of patented medicines. I don’t have the statistics, but if patients do not have Medicare part D coverage and secondary insurance, they could be paying thousands of dollars per month for medicine if they have to take branded drugs.

Most of these drugs are for chronic ailments like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and they do have generic alternatives, but sometimes these generics do not work for people.

There are a few drugs that I use as a second line for the treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), that cost nearly $2,000 per treatment (which is often monthly). That’s just the cost of the drug. The cheaper drug is still a brand name but because it is not FDA approved for use in the eye (and was not designed for that purpose), it comes in a bigger vial that a compounding pharmacy can divide into multiple doses. This drug costs $40–50 per dose. We are talking about a 50 times price difference!

The problem is that it does not work as well for some people and because it is compounded, and it has a much much higher risk of catastrophic infection (that can cause blindness) and possibly heart attacks (debatable).

Share this article: