The free market economy has many benefits. But its ruthless economics create perverse incentives in quality of life arenas such as health care: When profit trumps efficient care shameful stories routinely crop up. Here is the latest example: Valeant’s Drug Price Strategy Enriches It, but Infuriates Patients and Lawmakers.
“My husband will die without the medicine,” says his wife, Susan, who now must a second part-time job to help pay for the couple’s health care. “We just can’t manage another two, three thousand dollars a month for pills.”
Her husband, Bruce Mannes had been taking the same drug, Cuprimine, for 55 years. He needs it to deal with an inherited disorder that can cause severe liver and nerve damage Wilson’s disease. This summer, Valeant more than quadrupled its price overnight.
Cuprimine is one of many drugs whose prices have spiked as part of the Valeant company’s business strategy, which has made it one of Wall Street’s most popular health stocks.
As Americans we feel stuck, firstly with a sick medical system; and secondly stuck with a false notion that the drugs we need are of one kind only and we have no control over how to get them.
We offer two antidotes to our stuckness:
- Shaming companies such as Valeant or drafting regulations to rein in price gouging fails to fix the core issue which is that health care ought NOT be for profit. A single payer health care system would establish proper priorities letting efficient care drive reimbursement rather than profit. How this happened in countries such as England and Canada is that the public health sphere was permitted to expand to the point where physicians and clinics fell under governmental budgets. Here in the US the AMA has repeatedly gone to court to oppose federal monies being spent on one-to-one care. As a result our public health care domain is dwarfed, limited to areas such as epidemic research and quarantine function. Up to 90% of the health dollar (or pound) could go to direct care as opposed to 10% as it does in the US (the 90% going to administration, insurance payer chasing, claim denial and other such waste).
- As opposed to in Europe and much of the world, few Americans know about the medical efficacy and economic value of homeopathic medicine. As an example, homeopathic texts (known as materia medica) document at least eight homeopathic remedies known to effectively address Wilson’s disease. A homeopathic practitioner is trained to identify the one most likely to help Bruce Mannes. Why is such information not known? Because homeopathics are by and large not commodities. Apart from common formulations such as the Boiron company’s acute over-the-counter remedies, they do not (in their high potency, stronger constitutional formulation) produce corporate profit!
Homeopathic remedies offer additional advantages:
- They are non-addictive and non-toxic
- They offer side benefits instead of side effects: clients report improvement in apparently-unrelated physical ailments as well as overall energy and quality of sleep
- Their use is supported by research including a study by the Swiss government concluding that these medicines are as effective as conventional medicines only less expensive
- The average cost is less than a penny a day
- Instead of “you’ll be on this drug for the rest of your life,” their effect tends to be curative in months