Cost of drugs continues to cause debate -- and pain


Health & Fitness

November 21, 1999|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I am fed up with your diatribes about the high cost of drugs. Where do people get the idea that medicines are a right? Acting on this liberal attitude would result in cost controls that would ruin the pharmaceutical industry.

You mention that drugs are cheaper in other countries. In places where prices are controlled, they don't develop new drugs.

If people just stopped their bad habits, such as smoking, drinking and overeating, they would save a lot of money and wouldn't need so many expensive medicines.

A. We doubt if executives at Glaxo Wellcome or Boehringer Ingelheim, both pharmaceutical companies with headquarters abroad, would appreciate your dismissal of their research efforts. In their home countries, medications are paid for by the government or are more affordable.

We think your judgment of patients who require medications is too harsh. In many cases, the problems for which people need medicine have nothing to do with their lifestyles.

One woman told us of her dreadful experience being treated for cancer in an outpatient clinic:

"My first two sessions with chemo went well. But the third made me so sick I wanted to die. I threw up for hours and was so weak I could barely move. My doctor gave me a sample of Zofran, which worked like a miracle to control the vomiting. When my husband went to the pharmacy to buy 15 pills, the cost was $353, over $20 per pill. Medicare does not cover drugs, and we have no other insurance. He couldn't pay for the prescription, and now I don't know what to do."

We have heard of too many such heartbreaking cases. It is time the United States joined the civilized world in helping its citizens gain access to crucial medicines.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail them via their Web site, www. on the network.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.