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STFU dementor

lotuslion in polibock

Why Me?

Admin note: My sincerest apologies for sort of falling off the earth there for a while. Between grad school applications, the holidays, post-holiday crap, a kidney infection, and work, I didn't have much time to read the news, let alone be snarky about it. I'm still pretty terrifically busy, so I'm going to intensify my search for a co-blogger, to kind of help me out and take some of the pressure off me. Interested? Leave a comment! I'm also playing around with some formatting changes, so stay tuned for those!


Teaser:The nurse told me Abbott has a program in place for the transition of Humira to market, wherein patients whose insurance will not cover Humira, or will charge a significant amount to do so, can continue getting the drug from Abbott for free. Additionally, there is an income component, where the cost of Humira is considered vis-a-vis a person's income, and this too can qualify the patient for free medication. Obviously, this was great news. But my happiness was followed by a single question: Why me?



Today is a bit more personal. This morning I had an appointment with my GI, a 3-month visit required of patients participating in an "open-label" clinical trial of Humira. I have Crohn's Disease, and this trial is the last step before Humira becomes commercially available for the treatment of Crohn's; it's already available for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Now you know the backstory.

I mentioned to the trial nurse that I'd read an article which stated that Abbott Laboratories hopes to make Humira commercially available sometime this year, possibly as soon as this summer. Once this happens, the trial will end, and I will need to pay for my medications. I had investigated my insurance company's coverage of Humira, and because it is non-formulary with no available generics, it would run me something like $200 a month. Switching to another medication or giving up Humira is not an option; I would become sick, require surgery to remove a section of my intestines, and generally have my life destroyed. This is not an exaggeration.

The nurse told me Abbott has a program in place for the transition of Humira to market, wherein patients whose insurance will not cover Humira, or will charge a significant amount to do so, can continue getting the drug from Abbott for free. Additionally, there is an income component, where the cost of Humira is considered vis-a-vis a person's income, and this too can qualify the patient for free medication. Obviously, this was great news. But my happiness was followed by a single question: Why me?

Not "Why me?" as in "Why do I have this disease?"

"Why me?" as in "Why should I receive free medication? Why me, why this drug, and not other people, other medications?"

Abbott Labs recently tangled with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) regarding a new, simplified, heat-stable AIDS treatment. The problem? Abbott refused to register the drug in third-world countries, including Africa.

Well, let me be fair. After months and months of pressure from MSF, Abbott agreed to sell the drug to MSF for use in its Africa programs, but STILL has not registered the drug in any developing nation, and refuses to extend the same offer for MSF programs in Guatemala and Thailand.

Let me break this down for you: Abbott is refusing to sell its own drug, for reasons best known to itself. Yet they will give me a drug for free.

I have no idea how much money is spent on Crohn's research compared to AIDS research (Google failed me), and there are A LOT more people with AIDS than Crohn's. It just makes no sense to me to ostensibly develop a drug for an intended market only to NOT SELL it in that market.

I explained this conundrum to midtermmockery, who perhaps captured the problem best:

"You're trying to use ethics, logic, and goodwill to figure these people out. Wise up, will ya?"



It's violating my inner economist.

Comments

I dont have the answer, but I have an idea

Though it's not the case in the United States (or at least with respect to the FDA), other countries' governments regulate the health care system, including the price of drug treatments. So if the company or companies registered their drugs in those countries, the government could put a cap on the price the treatments go for that the industry feels is too low.

By agreeing to sell to Doctors Without Borders and not to a country, directly, maybe this allows the pharmaceuticals leverage in setting the price.

Re: I dont have the answer, but I have an idea

Yes, this is true, and MSF can import drugs without going through all the hoops that pharma corps do...but they won't sell the drug to MSF to use in Thailand or Guatemala, only in Africa. Sooo they're effectively saying who gets the drug (and by extension, possibly live), based on some inscrutable reason. There's no rhyme or reason - they'll sell to MSF for use in one area, but not in another.

I quote again...I'm baffled by this idiocy. ;P

Re: I dont have the answer, but I have an idea

That seems like a PR problem. If they start to give treatment or allow the drugs to be used in certain countries, then cut off the supply or refuse to sell outright, it looks more inhumane than never getting in the business in the first place. And it also shoots holes in their rationale for not getting into those markets to begin with. And it becomes a bigger, more negative story than it is right now, which is to say it's a relatively small story here and now in the U.S. that not enough people are hopped up about to make meaningful change.