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Report: Advocacy visits to Senators Beyer and Edwards

by David Ivan Piccioni, HCAO Eugene

At one of my visits Wednesday with Lee Beyer I told him my story which I had made into a letter to editor. It is bellow for reference:

Drug price disparities are unfair     
Register Guard 9/1/2014  (Labor Day)
I recently had a biopsy performed to check for liver damage due to hepatitis C. Medicaid excluded me from treatment because my liver looked good enough that they didn’t believe it will be the cause of my death.
Talking to the doctor, I learned that Medicaid wouldn’t pay to treat my condition because of the cost: $84,000.
He said I could take my prescription to Canada and buy the drugs there for $48,000. But that wasn’t what blew my mind; he also said for the price of a round-trip ticket to Iran or Saudi Arabia, or many African countries, I could buy the medication for a thousand dollars.
What? Who says America’s the land of the free? Free to be ripped of by dog-eat-dog capitalism.
I can’t figure out why pharmaceutical corporations are willing to bankrupt Americans while not doing the same to foreigners — after all, they only care about maximizing their profits.
Gilead, the company that currently owns the intellectual property for the medication, will eventually lose some of its loot to other chemists who will modify Sovaldi just enough so it still works but is novel enough to be patented.
Problems such as this are why the Affordable Care Act is far from what the Eugene group Health Care for All Oregon is advocating: single-payer or expanded Medicare for everyone.

I told Lee Beyer that our obstacles were the Insurance companies and the fact that we can't negotiate for prices with big pharma. He agreed about the Insurance, but said that negotiating with the drug companies is impossible because of a congressional clause which prohibits the gov't from bargaining with them. Some people think that the fact that drugs are cheaper in other countries means the big pharma companies are doing them a favor on the back of Americans who pay inflated prices. This is not so. Drug companies always get the most they can in any country. The fact that they negotiate fairly is credit to other countries' leaders and laws. It seems that if there are differences of 84 to 1 in American drug prices vs. say Saudi Arabia shows that this is one of the first problems to tackle: that congressional prohibition that inhibits fair business transactions and negotiating.

Also in a room full of people prompted by one of my questions, Chris Edwards disclosed that the Insurance companies have always offered him money. He said at first he turned it down, but then as he said "because I always vote against them I decided to take their money" "if they are dumb enough to give me money even though I vote against them, I'll take it". I am not mentioning this as an attack on senator Edwards, but I told him it was hard for me to believe the corporations would throw away money and really get nothing. And I told him health insurers are very powerful and they are not "dumb"; there might be strings invisible but real none the less.

Dave