The medical and pharmaceutical industries are the most profitable enterprises in the country. As it goes being on top, they receive their fair share of criticism. The general consensus toward drug companies is loathing hatred by the American public.
Of the many transgressions by the industry, bilking money from cancer patients may be the biggest blight. Three billion dollars worth of medications are thrown away every year, while companies intentionally work to overcharge patients. Some old timer on a pension is forced to pay steep prices for more medication than can possibly be used.
This wouldn’t seem like it should be possible, but there is some ridiculous corruption at work. Compared to European nations that have tight regulation over the pharmaceutical industry, government regulation is notoriously absent in the United States.
The main foxhole that manufacturers in the US can slip into causing the huge waste issue is with the lack of regulation in the method of packaging. A drug can be produced and distributed in a larger vial than necessary, making is guaranteed that some will be wasted. If the drug needs to be consumed immediately on opening and there is no consideration given to how much a given individual needs, then the drugs are not marketed for the consumers benefit. That’s unfair considering the patient that must then waste what they can’t take is also having to pay for what’s getting thrown away.
Social pariahs like Martin Shkreli have been raising prices ridiculously, only most hide in anonymity due to how inhumane the practices are. There can be no integrity in making drugs with short term benefits and high costs knowing that they will be prescribed anyway because the healthcare industry as a whole is way overpriced.
Peter Bach has been leading a charge in taking the industry to task. He forced a colon cancer manufacturer to cut prices by 50% to match that of an equally efficacious competitor. Still, the colon cancer drugs cost $5000 per month. Even if you’re obscenely rich, it’s not easy to keep living at that price. In some extreme instances, life saving drugs can cost over $100,000 for only a few weeks supply and these are not generally covered by insurance companies. Considering such ridiculousness, who can justify the point of even making the drugs?
That question of how much is a year of life worth to an individual is one that Dr. Bach decided to try to tackle with his drug abacus website. It provides research on various factors of drugs and features the abacus as a starting point for figuring out a drug’s value to a particular patient. For example, a user can choose a dollar amount for number of years they continue to live, but subtract value for things like side effects.
Since the government has not seemed hard pressed to reign in the pharmaceutical industry, it is critical that we have people like Dr. Bach putting their own careers on the line to stand up for a more just healthcare system.
Without the government incentives to encourage drug makers to make a more affordable product, the manufacturers run rough shod. Apparently integrity is not enough of an incentive. Doing the right thing for the right reason is not a value held by many business endeavors. Profits are always put before people, and the pharmaceutical industry is the greatest example of such imbalance.
While the bottom dollar is why people go into business, it shouldn’t be the end game. A lack of integrity doesn’t help the company long-term and it certainly doesn’t do cancer patients or researchers any good. There is no reason why a business couldn’t strive to cover costs and then work on a plan to improve the field that they participate in. The selfishness at all levels of society needs to be examined, but the best start is with leaders of the industry. If they can’t do the right thing, who will?