I don’t keep my hatred of pharmaceutical corporations a secret. In a lot of respects, I liken them to oil corporations — corrupt, profit-driven enterprises making money off the unfortunate, draining people’s well-being and bank accounts into the gas tanks of their Aston Martin’s. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic seem to share my sentiment, as they have recently stared directly into the dollar sign-shaped irises of pharmaceutical corporations and flying bitchslapped them with the Hippocratic Oath.
The sad reality of being a cancer patient is that you will be rendered destitute for just a chance at survival. From the Mayo Clinic:
“In the United States, the average price of new cancer drugs increased 5- to 10-fold over 15 years, to more than $100,000 per year in 2012. A study by Howard et al documented the escalation in cancer drug prices by an average of $8500 a year over the past 15 years. The cost of drugs for each additional year lived (after adjusting for inflation) has increased from $54,000 in 1995 to $207,000 in 2013.”
That’s staggering and terrifying. Pharmaceutical corporations, who already put a price on your life, have upped the cost of (potentially) life-saving cancer treatments to where they’re akin to purchasing, in full, a 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom condo in North Dallas every year.
To make matters worse, over 1 in 3 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.
Even worse than that, pharmaceutical corporations have the government by the short hairs. Thanks to former President George W. Bush, Medicare, the federal healthcare plan for American seniors, is barred from negotiating drug prices. This means the elderly, who are at a higher risk of developing cancer and tend to be on smaller, fixed incomes, are still bound by the same tyrannical costs the rest of us are.
Americans who have health insurance surely escape this madness, right? Yeah, about that…
Most healthcare plans require co-pays of about 20 to 30 percent of the total drug cost and in 2014, every FDA-approved cancer treating drug was priced over $120,000 per year. In contrast, the average American household income is $52,000 annually.
It is absolutely horrifying that cancer-stricken Americans are, by and large, forced to choose between their livelihoods and treating cancer. Pharmaceutical corporations have effectively made cancer treatments something where the ends routinely don’t justify the means. Cancer patients, thanks to the deplorable practices of American pharmaceutical corporations, have to trade their basic necessities (homes, educations, food, etc.) for just a chance at survival.
So, what does the Mayo Clinic propose in combating this profit-driven f*ckery? Their proposal is really quite simple:
- Creating a post-FDA drug approval review mechanism to propose a fair price for new treatments, based on the value to patients and heath care.
- Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
- Allowing the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, created through the Affordable Care Act initiatives to evaluate the benefits of new treatments, and similar organizations to include drug prices in their assessments of the treatment value.
- Allowing importation of cancer drugs across borders for personal use (e.g. prices in Canada are about half of prices in the United States).
- Passing legislation to prevent drug companies from delaying access to generic drugs (pay-for-delay).
- Reforming the patent system to make it more difficult to prolong product exclusivity unnecessarily (patent “ever-greening”).
- Encouraging organizations that represent cancer specialists and patients (e.g. American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society of Hematology, American Association for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, National Comprehensive Cancer Network) to consider the overall value of drugs and treatments in formulating treatment guidelines.
Of course, pharmaceutical corporations responded to the Mayo Clinic’s terms in the same way they always do, using the same talking points that won them control of Washington, despite their claims being thoroughly debunked by recent independent studies.
How very NRA-like.
Pharmaceutical corporations also defended their 14k gold pocket-linings with the excuse that cancer-treating drugs are of great value to the sick and drug makers need to recoup their costs. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told the Wall Street Journal that too often is the focus on the price of medicine and largely ignored is the value of said medicine.
Yeah, about that…
David W. Light, a fellow at Harvard University’s E.J. Safra Center for Ethics and a professor of osteopathic medicine at Rowan University, along with Hagop Kantarjian, chair of the Department of Leukemia at MD Anderson Cancer Center, thoroughly refuted the Fox-like rhetoric from Big Pharma’s mouthpiece.
In the May issue of AARP Bulletin, Light and Kantarjian found no credible evidence that actual research costs by pharmaceutical companies were higher when it came to cancer treatments than any other drugs. The doctors have speculated pharmaceutical corporations are merely price-gouging when it comes to cancer treatments.
They also found that pharmaceutical companies are not offering improved drugs to justify the escalating prices, as only one of the twelve new cancer drugs from 2012 helped patients survive more than two additional months.
As for the claim by pharmaceutical companies that they spend an average of $1.3 billion to create new drugs and gain FDA approval, Light and Kantarjian found that figure to actually be one-tenth of that claim — closer to $125 million, after deducting taxpayer subsidies, comparisons to other investment opportunities, inflating the cost of basic research, and other factors.
I’m sure Hippocrates is rolling over in his grave.