The Real Debate About Health Care in the US – Money Making Scam

As we watch the clowns in the media and CONgress argue about health care, the real issues about affordable healthcare are being totally hidden from the discussion. Affordable health care means that the cost to deliver health care should be universal and reasonable. When we take a hard look at just that proposition, we can really see what is going on. In two words, Big Pharma. In a more concise statement, it is not only big pharma, but the influence big pharma has with the FDA, CONgress, and the major insurers and providers, some of which THEY own.

Here are some of the facts, and just the facts:

Big pharma is a $280 billion a year business in the US alone! According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug.  An astounding 20 percent of all Americans are on at least five prescription drugs.  According to the CDC, approximately 9 out of every 10 Americans that are at least 60 years of age say that they have taken at least one prescription drug within the last month.

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 According to Alternet, last year, “11 of the 12 new-to-market drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration were priced above $100,000 per-patient per-year!  Think about this and ask why many prescription drugs cost about twice as much in the United States as they do in other countries. Children in the United States are three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than children in Europe. According to the CDC, approximately three quarters of a million people a year are rushed to emergency rooms in the United States because of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs.

Here are some real shocking facts, according to the Los Angeles Times, drug deaths (mostly caused by prescription drugs) are climbing at an astounding rate. Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008. Deaths more than tripled among people aged 50 to 69, the Times analysis found. In terms of sheer numbers, the death toll is highest among people in their 40s.

A Government Accountability Office report discovered that approximately one-third of all foster children in the United States are on at least one psychiatric drug.  In fact, the report found that many states seem to be doping up foster children as a matter of course.  Just check out these stunning statistics. In Texas, foster children were 53 times more likely to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications at the same time than non-foster children. In Massachusetts, they were 19 times more likely. In Michigan, the number was 15 times. It was 13 times in Oregon. And in Florida, foster children were nearly four times as likely to be given five or more psychotropic medications at the same time compared to non-foster children.

This year the American people will spend approximately 2.8 trillion dollars on health care, and it is being projected that Americans will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019. If the U.S. health care system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet. Back in 1960, an average of $147 was spent per person on health care in the United States. By 2009, that number had skyrocketed to $8,086. In 1942, Christ Hospital, NJ charged $7 per day for a maternity room. Today it’s $1,360. Approximately 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical bills.

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Is it the doctors who are driving the cost of health care? The simple answer is NO. It is about a cycle that starts with big pharma, the insurance companies driving their profits, and finally large health care provider organizations that are narrowing choices more and more each day. Just look at places like Pittsburgh PA to see what has happened when UMPC and Highmark are cornering the market on providing care.  Prices are going up, and choices of doctors and facilities going down. In fact, we are facing a shortage of doctors to deliver health care services. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of at least 13,000 doctors.  Unfortunately, that shortage is expected to grow to 130,000 doctors over the next 10 years.

The question becomes is CONgress even capable of doing anything to fix the problem? Doubtful. Remember when the Affordable Health Care Act was being debated? Remember the “Pocket” boys insisted that the government would be prevented from negotiating with Big Pharma on the cost of prescription drugs? Wonder why that was? Here is fact you might want to consider, the U.S. health care industry has spent more than 5 billion dollars on lobbying our politicians in Washington D.C. since 1998.

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We have a choice when it comes to this debate. We can passively sit by or we can let our legislators  know we are “on” to the game. Universal health can not only be a reality, it should be a right, especially at the price WE are paying for it.  We could have regulatory pricing structures in place that would reduce the cost of care delivery by 40 or 50% overnight. Put another way, we could have universal care for the cost of Medicare today. Don’t buy into the argument that health care costs are going to “break” the budget because it just isn’t the truth. Get informed, speak up, and let’s get this done.

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. 

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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?