Health Care in the “First World”

As the debate for funding health care in my native country rages half a world away, I felt the need to post this article from the New York Times.

“The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath”

To summarize, this is an article about the differences in cost between asthma medications now in the US versus costs in other nations around the world (and even next door: Canada), as well as costs in the US a decade ago. Things are getting ridiculous (and have been for some time, but getting MORE and at a faster rate).

There were so many points in this article that spoke to me as a person with a chronic disorder who will spend the rest of my life taking prescribed medications. I’ll highlight this one, however:

“Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.”

$15 —> $50 in 10 years. For a medication that’s not required any development. And for medication that is widely used by millions, often multiple times a day. Medication that should be priced like potatoes, not like imported champagne.

Lack of competition and re-patenting is keeping medications that should be cheap and readily available expensive and RX only. Because the idea of “Capitalism as God” is more important that insuring, or at the very least attempting for, the health of our sick, our weak, our young, our old, our unfortunate, our EVERYONE at some point or another.

Honestly, if the medication were more reasonably priced, the same would be true of much of the remainder of medical care, thus government health programs and private insurance could also be slightly cheaper. Regardless of these facts, someone, somewhere decided that allowing the pharmaceutical industry to become one of the largest in the world was more important than the NEED for the actual pharmaceuticals.

When medicine becomes more about profit than about empathetic care, it’s no longer medicine. It’s forcing you to buy your own time. Not just for happy living, but for ACTUALLY living.

Like the UK, which is mentioned as a test case several times, Thailand has a lot of over the counter options. The Lamictal I take here is name brand, and costs equal to or less than the generic lamotrigine I took in the US. Not that I feel any significant difference between the two (the Lamictal is slightly stronger, I believe, as I had some of the same side effects of dizziness and blurred vision that I had when I first started lamotrigine), but the point remains that if the generic is supposed to be priced to be the affordable version of the name brand (Walmart brand Maccarroni and Cheese versus Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar)-

Love that stuff.

-then it’s doing shit at its job. And it’s not just some developing world, third world, give-it-to-em-cheap nonsense either. My Lamictal is imported from Australia.

And look what Australia has to say about the price:

If I’m reading that link right (and I might not be, but I think I am), I would be spending $195 ASD (about 185 in USD), roughly, on what I take monthly with name-brand Lamictal. Here in Thailand I spend ฿6000 (fully covered by my Thai government health insurance that I get through working for a Thai government office), which is roughly $200 depending on the exchange rate of the day.

In the USA I paid, and would still pay, about $100 more for the same product.

Yes, you factor in the cost of manufacturing and of research, etc, but that doesn’t justify the cost of the initial example.

$15 —> $50. There’s something very, very wrong with that. Perhaps we should stop getting so up in arms about government trying to control business, and start realizing that the only reason government is stepping in is because we are allowing business to control us. We have allowed them to price us out of our health.

And that is not okay.


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