Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How To Equalize Prescription Drug Costs

It's been a while since I've seen Obama give a mention to his universal health care plan. Having read through the plan in its entirety on his website, I have to say that I wish it took into account the reality of why medical costs are so outrageously high. I am aware that an in-depth discussion of the details of the plan doesn't make for interesting sound-bytes and doesn't hold the interest of the American public the way patriotism, terrorism, and economic recovery plans do, but for millions of Americans forced to pay unnecessarily high drug costs, this hits U.S. consumers where it hurts the worst, in the pocketbook.

This is a complex matter, so in this entry I'd prefer to focus on one particular facet, namely high prescription drug costs. The problem among many in our for-profit healthcare system is that individual consumers in this country are forced to pay a disproportionate share of the research, development, and advertising costs for Big Pharma.

To treat my bipolar disorder, one of the medications I take costs nearly $420 for a thirty day supply without insurance. In Canada or Mexico, the same medication is anywhere from $10 to $20 for the same quantity. The reason for this price discrepancy is that the governments of other country have passed legislation that puts into effect a price ceiling. Pharmaceuticals cannot cost more than a certain amount in almost every country except for our thanks to smart government regulation. Our unwillingness to place price controls shows the power of the pharmaceutical lobby on our government.

If the cost was shared equally across the world, then it might be feasible for us, based on relative financial well-being to pay more for our drugs than other countries who do not have our economic stamina, but certainly paying 80-90% of the cost as we do now is neither fair nor just.

I certainly hope an Obama administration would make a point to establish government regulation where it is badly needed. We all are aware of government waste, corruption, and stalemate. If the Illinois senator wishes to advance smarter government, this would be a good place to start. I fear that in the four months to go before Election Day, this issue will get lost in the shuffle, taken to the back burner and submerged underneath issues such as economic recovery, patriotism, and terrorism, to name a few.

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