Highway Robbery- Big Pharma is the Real Culprit in Health Care Costs

Do you all remember when our CONgress passed “health care reform”, but was sure to include in the law that the government could NOT negotiate better prices for medications.  Now we are seeing that move was a green light for Big Pharma to make their moves, and boy have they made those moves.

I had heard recently an example that was given by a pundit who said as an example that the dose of a certain cancer treatment drug cost the manufacturer $200 to make and it was charging the hospital $2,000 a dose and the hospital in turn was charging the patient $20,000 to deliver the medication.  At first I thought this must be an exaggeration, so I have done some research.  Instead of debunking the claim, I have it is even worse than stated by the pundit.

An influential group of cancer experts has warned that the high prices charged by pharmaceutical companies for cancer drugs are effectively condemning patients to death. The group of more than 100 leading cancer physicians from around the world, including nine from the UK, accuse the drug industry of “profiteering” – Def. -making a profit by unethical methods such as by raising the cost of grain after a natural disaster.

Of the 12 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US in 2012, 11 were priced above $100,000 (£65,000) per patient per year. In addition the price of existing drugs of proven effectiveness has been increased by up to threefold. The specialists say: “What determines a morally justifiable ‘just price’ for a cancer drug? A reasonable drug price should maintain healthy pharmaceutical industry profits without being viewed as ‘profiteering’.

In addition, the rising cost of existing drugs in a cash limited health service such as the NHS or Medicare means treatment is denied to other patients with other conditions. By the mere fact of this outrageous pricing is condemning thousands of people to death.

One of the best known – imatinib, whose brand name is Glivec – has proved so successful in chronic myeloid leukemia that patients who a decade ago survived for a few years can now look forward to a near-normal life expectancy.

But the cost of Glivec has risen from £18,000 per patient per year to around £21,000 in the UK, and from $30,000 to $92,000 in the US. This is despite the fact that all research costs were covered by the original price, and the number of patients treated and the length of time they are on the drug have both vastly increased because of the drug’s success.

Daniel Vasella, former chairman and chief executive of Novartis, the manufacturer, said the original price charged for Glivec in 2001 was considered “high but worthwhile” and was estimated to yield annual revenues of $900 million, enough to cover its development cost in two years. A decade later its annual revenues in 2012 were $4.7 billion (£3 billion).

In the US even those with health insurance may pay an average of 20 per cent of drug prices out of pocket. Drug prices are the single most frequent cause of personal bankruptcies in the US. 

Wake-Up-and-Live

Three new drugs have been approved for chronic myeloid leukemia in the last year by the FDA but the prices are “astronomical” the authors say at up to $138,000 a year per patient. Worldwide only about a quarter of the patients with chronic myeloid leukemia who could benefit have access to drugs because of the cost. “A small fraction are rich enough to pay individually, and most are treated intermittently or not at all. The effects of these financial pressures on long term survival… are yet unknown.”

The authors of the article in Blood conclude: “We believe the unsustainable drug prices may be causing harm to patients. Advocating for lower drug prices is a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them. We believe drug prices should reflect objective measures of benefit, but should not exceed values that harm our patients and societies.”

In a statement to The Independent, Novartis said: “We recognize that sustainability of health care systems is a complex topic and we welcome the opportunity to be part of the dialogue.  Our critical role, as one of many parties working towards improving cancer care, is to discover and develop innovative treatments.”

“ Novartis innovation in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) has changed the course of the disease. Before Glivec(imatinib)* and Tasigna (nilotinib), the five-year survival in CML was only 30 percent. Today, nine out of ten patients with CML have a normal lifespan and are leading productive lives.”

“Over the years, our programs have evolved to improve patient access to our medicines. We work together with government health care systems, charities and other payers to build successful cost-sharing models.” What a bunch of you know what.  We need to take this industry to task.

Here are the most effective brands used for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia:

Imatinib (Glivec) $32,586/£21,000 per patient per year – Novartis – Designed from first principles, it proved hugely effective and unexpectedly turned into a blockbuster, earning billions of pounds for its makers.

Nilotinib (Tasigna) $32,586/£21,000 – Novartis – Designed for patients who fail to respond to Glivec, Novartis reduced the cost to get it past Nice, whilst increasing the cost of Glivec.

Dasatinib (Sprycel) $48,000/£31,000 – Bristol Myers Squibb – Also designed for patients who cannot take Glivec. But it has not been approved by Nice for use on the NHS because of its high cost.

Bosutinib (Bosulif) $74,500/£76,000 – Pfizer – For patients who suffer side-effects from the other drugs. It won approval in the US in 2012 but is awaiting a license in the UK.

Omacetaxine (Synribo) $ 155,000/£100,000 – Teva – For patients who cannot tolerate other drugs. Approved in US in 2012 but awaiting licence in the UK.

Ponatinib (Iclusig)  $140,00/£90,000 – Ariad – A third-generation drug which works in a different way. Approved in the US in 2012 but awaiting a licence in the UK.

When I see this, it begs the question of when do we wake up and say hell no.  This is our families lives we are talking about here.  How much more personal must it get before we stop this madness.  It starts with our elected officials and it should start RIGHT NOW.  When do we wake up? When Dear God When?

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Severe Weather in the Offing for May 5-6

In our continuing efforts to monitor various natural threats, rarely do we see a forecast model as foreboding as the one that is now showing up for the East and Southeast for May 5-6.  If this model holds true it will mean extreme weather unlike we have seen for years and it will impact most of the East and Southeast.  The intensity of this model would suggest severe outbreaks of tornadoes, very high winds, and heavy snow extending as far south as Kentucky and Tennessee.

forecast model for May5_6

We have been witness, in the East, warmer than normal temperatures followed by extremely cold fronts moving through for the last few weeks. But honestly folks, we have never seen a model as ugly as this in our experience.  Hope we are wrong, but even if the model is off, we can expect some pretty extreme weather from this system that is currently making it’s way from Canada as we speak.  Just a heads up, so you might want to stock up on a few things, because without a doubt there will be wide spread power outages from this monster.

Beware of Doubts, Fears, and Thoughts of Self

I have been somewhat silent as to the events unfolding before our eyes.  We all are witnessing events unfolding before us that suggest the world seems to be turning upside down.  The truth is that it is! But is this chaos politically, financially, and environmentally good or bad?  This is the question we should be examining for ourselves. Indeed, how we react universally and collectively to these events will most certainly determine our global fate.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, all teach the same concepts.  Control of our body, mind, and soul leads us to a greater understanding of the universe.  However, these rays of enlightenment do not become part of our conscious being without trials and tribulations. This is not a particular or unique principle reserved to a particular religion, but instead is a universal concept that pervades all philosophical disciplines, even the atheistic and agnostics believe systems. Our thoughts and how we discipline our thoughts are indeed the precursors to the acts and forms of what we call our reality.  We create our future by these very thoughts. The future does not unfold in any manner without our permission to do so.

I have spent many hours contemplating what I can do to affect our future. I think many of us feel so helpless at times. How can I affect financial markets?  How can I do anything to stop this fanatical terror that seems to be gripping most of the world? How I can correct the disparities brought on by greed and those who seek and seem to have so much power in the world? I cannot claim extraordinary wisdom or understanding for I am but a simple man with common knowledge.

The result of this intense meditation yielded to me one simple, but I believe profound realization.  I must simply not give my permission for these realities to continue.  By that, I mean, I will not allow my thoughts to give credence to these events in relationship to how they affect the way I THINK. I am sovereign.  We don’t end hate in the world by hating those who act on those corrupted beliefs.  We don’t allow wars and atrocities to unfold by participating in suppressing them.  We don’t agree to be subjected economically by participating in the economic structures that have been formed to enslave us.

I know many will say, great, but c’mon, do we all become hermits? Is that your solution? No, what we do is simply not become part of that paradigm. It is simple to state, but very difficult to act upon, or is it?

We can associate with like minded people, and we can support one another as we move forward. We can use our collective power politically to re-organize our governments to act as we demand. The recent events in the US concerning gun control should be a very good example.  90% of the people supported simple things like background checks, limited capacity magazines, and limits on access to assault type weapons.  The congress voted 56-to 44 to support the will of the people, and yet did not prevail. I think we all understand instinctively what we need to do during the next elective cycle.

We all must simply begin to act on what we KNOW is right. This extends to geo-politics, economics, and how we support such things as militaries and the banker backed war machines.  We should reach across all boundaries, borders, and religious beliefs to say we ARE in charge.

So I suggest to you all that you consider not looking at the news, or this or that teacher or guru, or what your neighbor thinks, but instead just take a few moments each day to ask YOURSELF is this acceptable to me? Then simply begin from that moment to visualize a world based on universal love, hope, prosperity, and peace. Humbly submitted for your consideration.

El Heirro Update – Crisis Seems to be Abating

This is just a quick update.  The activities in La Palma seem to be subsiding.  Only 9 quakes today and the FARO data seems to indicate that lava flow and deformation haven’t occurred in any significant manner in the last 48 hours.  Based on this information, it would seem the potential eruption and associated tsunami seems to be abating.  We will continue to monitor closely, but for now we can relax a bit.