Thursday, February 23, 2017
Capitalism and Big Pharma
WaPo source can be found here
There are few things that can inspire passion about Bioethics than a nearly 75-fold increase in the price of a drug designed to help dying children.
The drug in question is called deflazacort. It is designed to alleviate the suffering of those who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal disease that significantly slows muscle growth, making those afflicted unable to walk in their childhood and teenage years, and often ending their lives as young adults.
Deflazacort was previously available outside the U.S. for $1,200 dollars a year. The company that bought the voucher providing exclusive sale rights for seven years, Marathon Pharmaceuticals, posted the new listing price at $89,000.
The company states possible advantages to this seemingly unethical move; the drug will be available to those who need it at little or zero out-of-pocket cost to the consumer- provided they have the proper insurance. Some users who couldn't afford the $1,200 out-of-pocket from other sources may finally be able to obtain the drug.
The problem is, of course, that not all of the 15,000 people in the U.S. who need the drug will qualify for the insurance required. There are other drugs that provide similar relief, but the article suggests that the alternatives aren't as effective and have more severe side-effects.
On the surface, this looks like yet another case of a pharmaceutical attempting to (legally) maximize profits by (unethically) setting seemingly arbitrarily high prices on their drugs. My questions are these: is this profiteering something we should expect from a pharmaceutical industry that works in a capitalistic environment? Does this profiteering have any benefits to those who need the drugs? How can this system be improved upon?
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