Friday, September 16, 2016

The Plague of Generic Medicine Pricing, Two

My wife has pernicious anemia. That is a condition where the gut does not absorb vitamin B-12 into the bloodstream, so it needs to be injected into a muscle periodically. This malady was first described in the early 19th century and was known as Addison's anemia. Mary Todd Lincoln was a famous sufferer of pernicious anemia and eventually died of it. Medical science learned to treat it with liver extract in the 1920's, and the vitamin was specifically identified in 1948. In the 1950's purified vitamin B-12 was available for injection.

For years I have injected 1 cc of vitamin B-12 into my wife's shoulder every 6-12 weeks. Each vial costs about two dollars. What a wonderful gift it has been! What a triumph of medical science! Don't tell me modern medicine isn't great – today, my wife will get a life saving treatment that was unavailable to the wife of the President of the United States about 160 years ago. Today it was time for another injection and we found that it was time to reorder the vials. I called Sharon in the pharmacy and they had it in stock. I will pick it up this afternoon.

But all is not rosy in the world of modern medicine's generic pharmacy section. Sharon called me back. She said that while each vial of this life-saving medicine had formerly cost two dollars, the price had now gone up 600%, to twelve dollars per vial. 600%, ladies and gentlemen, 600%. Sharon asked me if I still wanted it. Well, yeah, it's kind of important to our family, saving lives and all, I'd say. (Gotta admit also, compared to the other generic problems, this is little league. But it's the principle!)

I railed against the American Academy of Pediatrics for not taking a stand on this in a post a few weeks ago: Now I say, forget the AAP. Let me say, diplomatically, they are what they are.

Instead, the culprits are (1) the evil pharma industry and the evil Wall Street culture of “if it's not illegal, it's OK,” and (2) the toothless bought-off government. What a world.

If I were a Hillary advisor – what a plague that would be, but if I were – I'd take this up as a cause. She proposed a commission for the Epipen problem and moved on. But I would take it as a case where she could stand up for people against industry and Wall Street. Call for laws for regulation that protected people against the evils of untrammeled capitalism. If I were a Trump advisor – heaven forfend – I would do the same. It's hitting everybody, and the case is so black and white it makes itself. What an opportunity – away from emails, or away from is Obama a citizen.

But, once again, what can one say about this depressing era? O tempora, o mores? As I recall, that speech was given not long before the demise of the Roman Republic. Hoping that's not the case, I remain your faithful correspondent,

Budd Shenkin

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