Friday, August 15, 2008

Easy Pickin's

Yesterday I made my usual daily visit to Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett's superb blog on what getting older really involves, and was delighted to see Dr. Bill Thomas' biweekly column for this blog. Dr. Thomas, who has his own blog here, is a geriatrician and a legitimate authority on aging issues, including, but not limited to, medical issues.

In this edition, Dr. Thomas zeroed in on a USA Today article on drug pricing. From that article:

“Drug companies are quietly pushing through price hikes of 100 percent or even more than 1,000 percent for a very small but growing number of prescription drugs, helping to drive up costs for insurers, patients and government programs. ...

“Among the examples: Questcor Pharmaceuticals last August raised the wholesale price on Acthar, which treats spasms in babies, from about $1,650 a vial to more than $23,000. Ovation raised the cost of Cosmegen, which treats a type of tumor, from $16.79 to $593.75 in January 2006.

Thems some pretty steep hikes for drugs for which all the research and (presumably) all the advertising and doctor-buying has been done. Dr. Thomas, as outraged as I was after reading the entire USA Today article, quite nicely demolished the usual excuse given for such run-amok capitalism:

It is not a "free market" when producers can arbitrarily push through price increases at will for products people need to survive, and nothing can be done to stop them. Where is the pressure to lower prices?

By some bizarre logic, we are expected to accept the "workings of capitalism" when companies raise prices by 100 percent, and we are supposed to object to our government acting to bring prices down by increasing competition.
[Emphasis added]

We are expected to accept those workings because PHARMA has a huge majority of Congress on the payroll. It's pretty hard to start containing health care costs for Medicare and Medicaid when the very people who are supposed to be grappling with the issue are receiving huge campaign donations from the source of the problem.

When it comes time for any real reform on health care, and I hope that time arrives shortly after January 20, 2009, PHARMA and all of its members and cohorts should be the first targets.

[Note: Dr. Thomas' Time Goes By column first appeared in a slightly different version on his own blog here]

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