Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pricey Pills

On Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan’s blog had a strategically placed picture and link to a site titled “Buy Safe Drugs". Being a novice, it took me a few minutes to realize that Sullivan was not pushing his opinion, he had simply sold blog-ad space to PhRMA, the american pharmaceutical industry’s advocacy group.

Take a look at PhRMA's site. It’s simply a scare tactic to convince Americans that prescription drugs purchased overseas are unsafe. And what do they use as an example? Neupogen. An injectable drug used to boost white cell count in chemotherapy patients, and costing about $250 per injection (one a day, 10 per chemo round).

Ok, I’ll grant that buying Neupogen from an overseas mail order supplier is kinda dicey. But what’s the real issue? The real issue is the more run-of-the-mill drugs. Here’s my real life example: My birth control pills. This specific type, Tri-Levlen has been around for over 20 years. I got my first prescription in Israel, and they cost me about $3 a pack. Expensive for me at the time, but they were top of the line. I emigrated to the U.S., where I found that they had not yet been approved by the FDA, so I had to resort to an older type for a few years. Then they came onto the market, and I bought them for years. List price was about $30, and with my insurance, I only had to pay a mere $10…

Ok, but let’s say that I wanted to get two packs, just to have one in reserve in case I forgot to buy a new one. Well, then I had to pay full price, i.e., $30. Because my insurance wouldn’t cover two packs that weren’t purchased at least 21 days apart. So not only was I paying three times as much, I had to make a monthly trip to the pharmacy to pick it up, or else pay 10 times as much.

Or I could visit my family in Israel, and while at it, buy a full year’s supply for 12 X $3 = $36…

And then I found a third alternative. The internet! Check out this site and look for Triquilar.. Six packs for 39.31 euros. Check some more, and you’ll find that Tri-Levelen is equivalent to Triquilar. The only difference will probably be that the European variant will have much cooler packaging.

“Yes”, you’ll say, “but is it safe?”

Well, this medication has been around for 20 years. It probably costs about one penny a pill to make. It’s sold in Europe. I haven’t heard of an epidemic of surprise pregnancies in Europe, or other adverse effects. Contrary to what PhRMA is saying, yes, of course it’s safe. As safe as buying it at your friendly neighbourhood pharmacy. And SOOOO much cheaper and more convenient.

The pharmaceutical industry is about the biggest racket in the country, all perfectly legal. How do they manage to maintain these price differences? Primarily, through legislation, but now they’re trying scare tactics as well.

Don’t be afraid…

14 Comments:

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