Desperate Patients: When Treatment is Too Expensive

Monday, October 29th, 2007
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

With all the emphasis on transparency in the healthcare industry, will we ever see a day when the pharma industry is held to the same reporting standard for pharmaceutical costs?

In this October 29, 2007 Newsweek article, Geraldine Ferraro describes how her ongoing battle with multiple myeloma has opened her eyes to the frailties of the U.S. healthcare system. The real eye-opener of the article, however, is the extreme lengths to which one sufferer must go in order to obtain treatment when the conventional path is too expensive:

Ferraro writes:

I routinely get calls from multiple-myeloma patients around the country. One conversation in particular sticks out: it was from a retired teacher in Montana who explained that he was feeling terribly fatigued. When I asked him about his hemoglobin levels (you get to know about this stuff when you have a blood cancer), they were startlingly low. “Oh, my God, they’re not giving you Procrit or Aranesp or one of the other anemia medicines?” I asked. “No. I can’t afford it. It costs $800 a shot,” he said. He explained that he’d had to devise a cheaper alternative to manage the anemia. “I wait until my hemoglobin gets down to seven [that’s really low] and then I go to the hospital and get a transfusion, which only costs $50,” he said.

In the same article, Ferraro laments the lack of transparency when it comes to pharmaceutical price:

It amazes me that in Italy, you can buy drugs for a fraction of what they cost here. Why? Because Italy and many other countries regulate the price of drugs. Yet here in the United States, consumers and insurers are subsidizing those cheap drugs by paying high prices to the pharmaceutical companies. That’s not fair.

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