No person, nor state, should go broke when it comes to curing disease and saving lives. Allowing that to happen just shows how sick our marketplace has actually become.
While important medical advances are being made to improve our health, we are witnessing — time and again — the pressure of treating certain illnesses. And those implications can be painful.
Despite the push for single payer health care in Vermont, and both Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s plans for prescription drug price restrictions, the system feels hopelessly stuck. The schism between supply and demand for certain drugs is impossible to bridge.
Orkambi is used in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that clogs the lungs with mucus and forces patients to struggle to breathe. The drug costs $710 per patient per day.
As the Associated Press reported earlier this week, the treatment takes a bite out of Medicaid programs, like Vermont’s, that are facing big budget problems. The AP report states Vermont will be on the hook next year for $3.6 million for a drug expected to treat only 40 people.
Taken as two pills, twice daily, Orkambi is a combination of two cystic fibrosis drugs that won approval from the Food and Drug Administration on July 2. Federal law requires Medicaid programs to cover FDA-approved drugs, and the U.S. government picks up more than half the tab. But what’s left over will make up nearly 7 percent of Vermont’s estimated $54 million Medicaid budget deficit next fiscal year.