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Mirabile Dictu, A Drug Exec With A Conscience

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Here’s a version of what I’ve been telling you, but this time from a vice president at Pfizer, one of the largest drug companies in the world::

"I’m a drug company executive who has spent 20 years marketing pharmaceuticals. And I’m troubled.

"I’m most troubled by the fact that we stick it to the people who can afford it the least.

"The American health care system … is certainly the best system for drug companies, which can charge the highest prices in the world to some U.S. consumers.

"And it is a pretty good system for hospitals, insurance companies and others that deliver healthcare services.

"But it’s not a good system for American citizens. The U.S. has shorter life expectancies and higher infant and child mortality rates than Canada, Japan and all of Western Europe except Portugal, according to the WHO." [Big Pharma’s Dirty Little Secret, Pfizer VP Peter Rost in the LA Times yesterday, subscription] (Story links open in new windows)

I won’t say "I told you so," but instead give you what he said about drug pricing:

"I’m most troubled by the fact that we stick it to the people who can afford it the least.

"For instance, elderly people who use a Medicare discount card and have to pay $1,299 annually for a drug that the Department of Veterans Affairs purchases for $322 … Or middle-class families that lose health insurance and have to pay $29,500 for an overnight hospital stay, when Medicaid would have paid only $6,000.

"And, not surprisingly, the companies with the biggest profits — those in the drug industry — have been fighting hardest to maintain the status quo.

"Our dirty little secret is that the drug industry already sells its products, right here in the U.S., at the same low prices charged in Canada and Europe. It’s done through rebates.

"The fight against re-importation of drugs is a fight to continue to charge our uninsureds full price while giving everyone else a rebate.

"People today have to choose between drugs and food. [Big Pharma’s Dirty Little Secret, Pfizer VP Peter Rost 12/26/2004] "

Okay, I can’t keep it in any longer: I told you so.

But it’s not just the drug companies – health care providers are a major part of the problem. A new law here in California has forced hospitals to open their "chargemasters," books showing what they charge.

"An examination of chargemasters at several hospitals shows that pricing strategies fluctuate wildly — on everything from brain scans to painkillers to leeches. Depending on a hospital’s pricing method, the charge for the same commodity or service, such as a blood test, can vary by as much as 17-fold from one institution to another.

"At some California hospitals, a tablet of Tylenol, or its generic version, acetaminophen, is billed at $5 or $5.50. Others charge $7, or even $9, for a single pill. One Los Angeles hospital charges just 12 cents a tablet, while at a few facilities it’s free. The retail price of brand-name Tylenol is about eight or nine cents each. The generic goes for a nickel or less. [California Hospitals Open Books WSJ 12/27/04 subscription]"

And if you want to do something about the situation, you should tell your Senators and House Representative.

Tell them to kick their drug habit and come up with a system that’s good for us.

[Print version (now accelerated so it’s useable with dial-up)]

 

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