Medical Alchemy: Valeant again, Seconal

America’s uniqueness lies in part in the fiction that free markets work and that the “music of the marketplace” will unerringly do the “right thing.”

As medicine became monetized (def: is the process of converting or establishing something into legal tender) in the U.S. it’s fiscal processes have become more grotesque.  We have medications on the market that big Pharma sells at many multiples of the median and/or average income of our citizens.  Most of these drugs have minimal to moderate effect on the ultimate course of diseases.  And even if completely effective can we afford medications at such multiples of our incomes? 

In recent years the fad in monetization has been buying old drugs and rapidly increasing their prices.  The old cover of we need to charge a lot to pay for research falls by the way side as these companies simply charge whatever they can because they own the drug.  No research is necessary it’s simply a monetary play, as in “The Big Short.”  Patients well being is simply not their concern.  In health care today, it the money stupid.

The issue arose last year, when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec acquired the rights to Seconal, the trade name of secobarbital sodium, the most commonly prescribed drug for aid-in-dying patients. The firm quickly doubled the cost, from $1,500 to more than $3,000 — and up to $5,000. That’s on top of previous retail price increases for the nearly 90-year-old sedative that once sold for $150 for a lethal 10-gram dose.

Medicynial Note:  Yes the article describes the fix for the price increase, as new concoction which while effective is likely not as ideal as the secobarbitol (seconal).  But consider this, a drug that was patented in 1934 and at one time cost pennies a dose (for sleep) and as recently as 30 years ago cost in the range of $50-$100 is now priced at  $3000.  Alchemy?   An American success story? Or part of the continuing demise of our health care non-system? 

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