March 6, 2017
Every Tuesday for the past nine weeks, I’ve sat in an infusion room for four-and-half hours receiving drugs that cost $13,000. It’s going to be every other Tuesday for the next 14 weeks. Total value of the deal — $208,000.
I am very grateful for these drugs. I relapsed months ago and so far, the new drugs are keeping my cancer at bay. I can afford good supplemental Medicare coverage. Others are not so lucky.
Thirty percent of cancer patients go bankrupt. One out of 10 patients with my incurable blood cancer — multiple myeloma — report they stop taking their drugs because they are too expensive. Drugs should not come at prices that bankrupt and ruin the lives of people struggling to stay healthy.
Why is this happening? The drug corporations have rigged the system to give themselves monopoly pricing power, charging whatever they want for new drugs and often raising prices for old drugs with impunity. There’s literally a law that prohibits Medicare from negotiating the price of drugs. Instead, drug corporations dictate prices as high as $300,000 per year.
Once the price is set by Medicare, it ripples down the whole system, and everyone gets a piece of the action. pharmacy benefit managers who run prescription drug insurance programs make more working off the high initial price. Doctors and hospitals can get percentage mark-ups. Who pays the bill? The rest of us — patients, consumers and taxpayers.
Juliana Keeping from Oklahoma City is one of those tired of being taken advantage of. Her son, Eli, has cystic fibrosis, and he will need a medication from Vertex that costs $259,000 per year. Juliana and her husband struggle to manage the costs of his current drugs and his care, and she was tired of being silent.