By Joe Rector

Amy asked me what the benefits of having arthritis are. My answer was nothing on a personal level, but it kept the drug companies in business and rich as they develop new drugs. You know the ones about which I’m talking: the treatments that will help with the disease if the side effects don’t kill the patient. One thing is clear; the cost of drugs can easily cripple a family, even if they have the best insurance coverage available.

I have an arrhythmia, better known as an irregular heartbeat. The standard treatment for it is taking a drug called Xarelto. It’s a blood thinner that helps the blood from clotting and causing a stroke. A thirty-day supply of Xarelto costs approximately $581.00. Yes, those 30 pills cost that much! If an individual doesn’t have coverage, he is faced with some hard financial decisions.

Repatha is another one of those expensive drugs. The cost per month is $140 until a Medicare patient is in the doughnut hole. Then the cost can be as much as $600. This medicine is for those with cholesterol problems that can’t be lowered by other medicines alone.

Not long ago, even insulin was too costly for many people. According to The Lancet, prices for the drug rose by 200% from 2007-2018. A person without insurance coverage could possibly pay as much as $1000 a month for a drug that is necessary to sustain life. With pressure from the federal government, the price for users in qualified programs is now $35. How can a medication drop from unaffordable prices to those that Americans can afford?

The answer is quite simple. Drug companies spend piles of money to develop new drugs. When one works and is approved by the FDA, it can be sold at a premium. Not until 20 years after the patent is issued can a drug become generic. Most of us older folks won’t be around when the pills and shots that we take become generic. We’ll either have died from something else or from not being able to afford the medicines we need.

I know that the government spends too much money on wasteful projects and programs. Yet, I can’t for the life of me understand how an elected official from either party would or could vote to deny the lowering of prescription drug prices. Doing so is a failure to represent millions of voters who voted for them.

Our entire medical insurance coverage program is in a mess. It’s been that way for years, even before the Affordable Health Act passed. The main reason that things rarely change to benefit consumers is that lobbyists have access to our elected officials and can convince them to maintain the status quo. They can convince our leaders to keep prices artificially high, even when doing so comes at the cost of the lives of citizens who can’t afford to eat and buy prescriptions. For example, OxyContin helped Purdue Pharma rake in $35 billion in 2016. The company made a fortune while it turned users into addicts.

We live in a capitalist country. That means that people and companies should make a profit from their creations and labors. However, at some point, enough profit is enough. When people depend on a drug for survival but can’t afford it, then our companies and their owners have put profits before people. America is the greatest of all countries, yet its healthcare system is an embarrassing disgrace. The time has come to restructure costs so that fair profits are paid to owners and prices for patients are affordable. To vote against that is just a slap to the faces of the American citizens.