Friday, January 12, 2007

Drug Company Helps Ungrateful Journalist

Dustin Block of the Journal Times wrote an interesting piece today about his troubles with acid reflux. Ultimately, he found a medicine, at a reasonable cost, that has relieved his discomfort.

But along the way, he was prescribed Nexium, a "little purple pill" that was helpful, albeit quite expensive. He told the story of Nexium, a "remarkable scam" he called it. Nexium is made by AstraZenaca, the same company that created Prilosec, another very successful drug. Prilosec's patent was running out, so AstraZenaca came up with Nexium, a very similar (perhaps identical?) drug, and they got a patent for it. They spent huge sums in advertising and no doubt they wined and dined doctors etc... to ensure its widespread use.

In my opinion, if there are bad guys here, it would be the U.S. Patent Office who issued a patent for Nexium when perhaps they shouldn't have, and Dustin's doctors, who either are ignorant of the pills they are prescribing or are purposely prescribing more expensive medicine for excessive profit. AstraZenaca is guilty of successfully advertising a product that works.

Now back to Dustin Block. He couldn't help throwing jabs at high deductible health insurance plans: "The pills...cost $350. This is what happens when you pick a high-deductable health insurance plan designed to save money." Block didn't mention the money he is saving on monthly premiums. And Dustin warned us that "if we close our hearts, outside manipulaters like drug companies take control." Wow! It is these very manipulators who have brought relief to Dustin. He should be more grateful.

Instead, Dustin credits his recovery to openness. "Help didn't come from the doctor. It came from people who care about me asking, sometimes forcibly, what was wrong." And "Somehow, opening up helped me research what was going on." And "If we're open to sharing our lives, opportunities appear."

Now I am all for openness, and I am glad Dustin has friends who care for him. But openness alone did not produce the drugs that are helping Dustin lead a comfortable life. Drug companies produce the drugs that are helping Dustin. And the drug companies could not produce their drugs without the support of our mostly capitalist economic system.

But it takes more than an open heart to realize all this. You need an open mind as well.


Kathy said...

Ok Denis, I hear what you're saying and on some levels I agree with you. I believe that drug companies have developed drugs that do for the most part help us. I've got a couple of scenarios that I would be curious to hear your opinion:

A friend of mine had breast cancer. One of the medications she was placed on costs $350 here in the U.S., but she could get it in Canada for $39. Do you see a problem here? This leads into my next thing...

When my son was born our pediatrician talked to me about having him vaccinated for the roto-virus. The roto-virus vaccine was a new vaccine then, and because of that I declined to have my son vaccinated for it until I learned more about it. A short time later the roto-virus vaccine was pulled from the market because it caused bowel obstruction in some/most babies that received the vaccine.

It has been said that one of the reasons that we pay higher prices for prescription meds is that part of that money goes toward funding the research for the drugs. If that's true, then why didn't they know that the roto-virus vaccine caused bowel obstruction? Or that others like: Bextra, Dexatrim, Vioxx, Fen Phen, and Redux (to name a few) caused heart damage/attacks and strokes?

The bottom line for me is that I've learned over the years that I am my own advocate and the advocate for my family when it comes to health care. I do not sign on for anything unless I've done my research first. And like you said in a previous post, its risky. Its my job to weigh those risks and act in the best interests of my entire family.

Anonymous said...

kathy, you clearly state further evidence of why their has to be government regulation for corporate america, because they consistently fail, time and time again to regulate themselves.

Denis Navratil said...

well anon, who will regulate the regulators in your dream world?

Denis Navratil said...

kathy I would love to address your questions but I don't have anything to offer other than a guess or speculation. Generally speaking, I would suggest that there is no way to eliminate all risk when it comes to taking drugs, so there will be examples of drugs that cause harm to some. But on balance, are we better off with the drug therapies that exist or would we be better off without them? I think we all know what that answer is. Some of the drugs you mentioned have caused problems, even deaths. But some of the same drugs have helped many others. The best we can hope for is for drugs to be available with a clear understanding of the risks associated with them. And I think that is what we have for the most part.

Regarding the higher cost of drugs here vs Canada, again I haven't researched this problem. Again I will offer a guess. If a drug company spends billions researching and making a drug, they will of course try to recoop that cost. After the initial billion $ investment, it probably costs pennies to make the drug thereafter. This would afford drug companies the opportunity to sell worldwide for a fraction of the cost. Theoretically, they could do the same here in the US, but perhaps there are patents which protect them from cheaper copies and this allows them the opportunity to charge more such that they may profit off of their very substantial investment. I personally think it is very important that drug companies make profits, because they won't produce the drugs we need without profits. And if the government ever takes over drug research and production, look for a decrease in our life expectancies.

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