And When a Medicine (Revlimid) “Works” It’s Unaffordable: $132,000/year, $534/pill

Poignant piece in the NY Times magazine that highlights some of the flaws in our unsustainable health care non-system.  This paragraph outlines the problem

After making more than 70 phone calls to 16 organizations over the past few weeks, I’m still not totally sure what I will owe for my Revlimid, a derivative of thalidomide that is keeping my multiple myeloma in check. The drug is extremely expensive — about $11,000 retail for a four-week supply, $132,000 a year, $524 a pill. Time Warner, my former employer, has covered me for years under its Supplementary Medicare Program, a plan for retirees that included a special Writers Guild benefit capping my out-of-pocket prescription costs at $1,000 a year. That out-of-pocket limit is scheduled to expire on Jan. 1. So what will my Revlimid cost me next year?

Medicynical note:  Anyone believing our non-system is the best in the world should need such drugs.  While  drug companies  spend a great deal to develop medications,  their costs are inflated and overstated.  Efficiency is simply not on their agenda.  Nor is patient well being, access or for that matter outcomes. 

It’s the money stupid!  Charging more than twice the median U.S. income for a single drug that patients in life-threatening situation, any single drug,  is simple blackmail.  It reflects an industry and economy gone mad.

5 responses to “And When a Medicine (Revlimid) “Works” It’s Unaffordable: $132,000/year, $534/pill

  1. I had a friend who was on Revlimid for a pre lukemia condition. He was shocked when I told him what the cost was. The drug, also has some very nasty side effects. Despite the treatment, he died a few months after starting it. There are never any guarantees with cancer.

  2. expensive drugs… “orphan drugs”, a very sensitve issue… it all comes down to the simple question of how to distribute the limited ressources. At least that’s how it works here in Europe.
    You guys in the US simply leave the risk up to the patient.

    • Both situations, expensive and orphan, have the same genesis, the drive for excessive profits by pharmaceutical manufacturers. They have no incentive to control costs so new drug development is expensive. I’ll grant that some issues, like the FDA’s requirement that the drug be safe and at least marginally effective, are out of their control. Their expectation however, of exceptional profits and the lack of any concern about cost to consumers trump all other issues.

      Regarding orphan drugs, they have traditionally been long our of patent useful drugs that are inexpensive. There is no money in them for manufactures so they don’t produce them.

      Patient well being? Not their department.

      I’m not sure what you mean leave the risk up to the patient.

  3. I am stupefied and in utter disgust at these Revlimid costs (and don’t forget Leulkine). I have been on both drugs for many years and the costs just keep skyrocketing. In the coming months perhaps, maybe a year or so, Medicare and other providers will not be able to handle the mass of cancer patients needing these drugs. The costs will make it unsustainable… they just go up, up, and away from most patients. In due time, there is going to be unnecessary deaths of thousands or even millions of cancer patients who have no chance of obtaining these drugs with their financial situation. It is outrageous. No wonder we are ranked so low in healthcare as compared to other countries. The profits will drop too because of the inability of most sick cancer folks to get these drugs. And yes, the side effects can be horrendous…as I know personally. Yet, a dangerous day off here and there because of fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and weakness and overall dirty and ugly maladies of body agony, is risky business. It is so depressing to watch and be a part of this nations dive so fast into bankruptcy with healthcare and drug profiteering than dealing with the devastating drag on the economy the past few years. How about Orphan Drugs? Where in blazes is Congress? Damned dreadful and this is the USA.
    Not Happy Times; Never Again.

    • Sorry to hear of your need for these medications. Congress in case you haven’t noticed is in the pocket of the large drug companies and in the 80’s facilitated the transfer of tax-payer funded research results to private entities without any offset in pricing. In America we have no health care system but rather a system for suppliers and providers to make money off of your bad luck. Maybe it will change, but that’s not likely, even with the advent of health care reform.

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