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Let’s All Tell Mr. Trump We’re Sick of Big Pharma Ripping Us Off.


By Bob Aronson

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cartoon-2Everyone, unless you have the riches of Donald Trump, everyone complains about the cost of prescription drugs and the complaints are justified. No other country in the world pays as much for prescription drugs as Americans do.  Big Pharma, that’s Washington DC talk for the huge pharmaceutical companies, is making sky high profits and they aren’t going to end anytime soon. In the latest year in which I was able to find numbers 2012 the top 11 global drug companies made nearly $85 billion in net profits. That’s net, folks, not gross. The gross number is, well, gross.

Big pharma is ripping off Americans and no one seems to care other than ripped off Americans. The Republican congress sure doesn’t care, they all have their hands out for the lobbying money big pharma so liberally spreads about. And – the Democratic White House of the last 8 years hasn’t said much either. Now we have a new President about to take office and several months ago in a primary debate he made a big deal out of the high cost of drugs, but we haven’t heard much from him since. Let’s hope he has the guts to take on big pharma.  The pressure on Trump to do nothing will be tremendous. He’ll get it not only from the drug companies, but from all the politicians whose pockets have been lined with campaign donations by big pharma lobbyists. Trump can bellow all he wants, if congress won’t go along he’ll be shooting blanks at a stationary target.

During the Democratic Primary campaign Bernie Sanders made a big deal out of reversing the Citizens United ruling that allows corporations, unions and the like to make almost unlimited contributions to political campaigns. So if you are asking where the politicians are who are supposed to be looking out for us. I’ll tell you where. They are out being fitted for new big pharma cheer leading outfits. The more money big pharma makes, the more money they get in the campaign coffers.

The number of conflicts of interest between the regulators and the regulated boggles thecartoon-3 mind. How do these people who are so obviously biased and in the industry’s pocket, get into these positions of power? I shouldn’t even ask the question, because the answer is so obvious. For example; PhRMA, (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) which spent $18.4 million lobbying lawmakers last year and BIO (Bio-technology Innovation Organization) which spent $8.4 million, are among the most visible groups on Capitol Hill.  Get this. Former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin chaired the committee which oversees the drug industry. You know how he got the chairmanship? Well, he was a Democrat, but when the Republicans took over the majority he switched parties. Now that’s a lust for power. Then he abruptly resigned his congressional seat and shortly thereafter emerged as the new leader of PhRMA where was a paid a cool $2 million a year. That deal leaves a stench on the paper this is printed on.

The Tauzin defection and sell out of his integrity was among the beginning rumbles of even greater conflicts of interest. For example, the Obama FDA commissioner, Robert Califf, was confirmed despite the fact that there were 23 proven financial links to drug makers. And – it gets worse. Did you know that 30 percent of sitting U.S. Senators and 20 percent of U.S. congressmen own pharma stock? I won’t go into detail here, but if you want to learn more about this disgrace go to https://www.statnews.com/2015/12/01/congress-pharmaceutical-investment/

When did you first realize how bad this gouging was?  Was it last year when that cocky little jerk Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, testified about the Daraprim price hike from $13.50 to $750. As a result the anti-parasitic drug became unaffordable for thousands of Americans. In the meantime Shkreli was on Twitter calling lawmakers “imbeciles” for even asking any questions about his unethical and immoral price hikes.

Others of you with Hep C may have experienced the greed of Gilead Sciences drug Sovedeldi which sold for $84,000 for a 12 week course of treatment in 2014. Headlines were screaming “Rip-off,” patients were dying because they couldn’t afford the drug, but Gilead was unaffected. One of their execs even sent out an internal memo saying, “Let’s hold our position whatever competitors do or whatever the headlines.” In an incredible understatement the GOP led Senate Finance Committee said the price did not reflect research and development but a “revenue” push. Revenue push nuts! That’s unabashed price gouging especially in light of the fact that the same drug cost $900 a year in Egypt. Forbes, the conservative business magazine, pointed out that US taxpayers are picking up the tab since most US hepatitis C patients are uninsured, underinsured or imprisoned. Those in prison don’t qualify for any help at all. They are destined to suffer and because they are suffering run the risk of contributing to the Hep C epidemic.

But that’s only, and I hate clichés, but here goes anyway – the tip of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Let’s hope the big pharma ship hits the same obstacle. There are many, many more rip offs that most of us don’t’ know about because we only have a familiarity with the drugs we personally take and for some reason the mass media have mostly ignored the get rich schemes of big pharma.

They will tell you that the high prices reflect the cost of research and development. I know from first –hand experience that’s not true. For some 25 years I was a communication’s consultant that helped large and small pharma companies bring the products to market. Developing new drugs and or devices is expensive. Just getting FDA approval costs a lot of money in clinical trials and in paying physician experts for their testimony, but big pharma in particular doesn’t bat an eye at those costs because they spend more on promoting drugs and on advertising than they do on research and development and they pass those costs on to you.

death-cartoonYou probably didn’t know this but we, the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow prescription drug advertising. The companies are trying to put pressure on doctors to prescribe by going directly to consumers and asking them to ask their docs for a prescription of the latest snake oil and some of it is snake oil. Some drug companies will make minute changes in the chemical structure of a drug, rename it and call it a new drug. Prilosec, for example became Nexium. It was essentially the same drug but changing the formula a smidgeon and giving it a new name netted billions for the parent company. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/12/18/nexium.aspx

Here’s a partial list of some very expensive drugs. So expensive some patients choose to die because they can’t afford them. It used to be said that some seniors had to choose between eating and taking their drugs. That’s no longer true, even giving up eating won’t save enough money to buy these drugs.

  • Kalydeco  treats a rare form of cystic fibrosis in patient’s ages 6 years and older priced at a $300,000 a year.
  • Acthar, a drug that treats treat seizures in infants under 2-years-old priced at a $300,000 a year.
  • Kadcyla, a breast cancer drug that costs $94,000 for a year.
  • Zydelig, a leukemia drug, made by Gilead the (Hep C drug maker) that costs $57,755 a year.
  • Xyrem, a drug that treats narcolepsy for $35,000 per year (Honesty suggests that I (Bob Aronson) disclose having helped the developers of Xyrem get FDA approval)
  • Abilify, a psychiatric drug usually added on to another expensive psychiatric drug, that costs $17,316 year.

(Some of the above was developed by Martha Rosenberg an investigative reporter whose work has appeared in Consumers Digest, the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Los Angeles Times, Providence Journal and Newsday. Her Random House food and drug expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, was cited in the American Society of Journalists and Authors 2013 Outstanding Books awards. On Twitter you can find her at @MarthRosenberg.

It’s bad enough that Big and even small Pharma gouges us with high prices, their greedgreed knows no bounds. Now I understand, many pharma companies are attempting to re-incorporate outside of the US in order to dodge U.S. taxes. Does that really surprise anyone?

So far we’ve dealt with the high prices of prescription drugs, the multi-million dollar lobbying effort on the part of big pharma and lawmakers and administrators who have clear conflicts of interest. But what about physicians. Well, they’re not clean either.

According to a federal on-line data base, pharmaceutical companies and device makers paid doctors some $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period in 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/business/Database-of-payments-to-doctors-by-drug-and-medical-device-makers.html?_r=0 some doctors were paid over half a million dollars each, and others made a lot more by sharing in the royalties from products they helped develop.

lobbyistsBig pharma says paying physicians has little or no effect on what they prescribe. Ok, if that’s true why the drug do companies pay doctors all of that money if they aren’t getting a huge return on investment. To be fair, there are efforts to reduce the influence Pharma representatives have on physicians. Many hospitals and clinics no longer take samples as a display of independence, but that’s a double edged sword. A good any patients counted on getting those free samples to cut the cost of the drugs they take. Doctors claim these pharma payments have no effect on what they prescribe. But why would drug companies pay out all those millions of dollars if the practice didn’t provide them a healthy return on their investment?

Americans spend more money per person on prescription drugs than any other nation on earth and we aren’t anywhere near being the healthiest. We spend nearly $3 Trillion a year on health care and a full ten percent of that is spent on prescription drugs.  While Government pays some of this tab through Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act we pick up the rest through insurance premiums and taxes. And – the premiums, co-payments and deductibles are getting higher all the time. .

Big pharma, not satisfied with their outrageous profits are so driven by greed that they will go to any extreme to continue the revenue flow. Not long ago just before its patent  expired on Namenda, one of the only Alzheimer’s drugs, Forest Laboratories said it would quite selling it in favor of a new formula that offered an extended release. But there was really nothing new about it, just a minor change in the chemical structure and that kept it from going generic at a lower price.

And, of course, you are all likely familiar with the fact that U.S. law prohibits the U.S. government from using its considerable bargaining power under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower drug prices. No one wants to admit to this but that came about because it was big pharma’s payoff for not opposing the 2003 Medicare Part D Bill of the George W. Bush Administration.

Lest I haven’t made my case about how big Pharma is ripping us off, did you know that ceo-payhealthcare and big pharma pay their CEOs more than any other industry? Want proof? Median pay for healthcare and pharmaceutical executives amounted to $14.5 million in 2015, higher than for leaders in any other sector, according to Equilar, a California firm that researches and analyzes executive compensation. Median compensation for all CEOs in the study, which looked at pay packages of 341 executives at S&P 500 companies across multiple sectors in 2015, was $10.8 million.

The increase in healthcare executive pay from 2014 to 2015 was also greater than in other sectors. Healthcare CEO Pay rose 7 percent last year over the amount in 2014, while the comparable median pay increase for all industries was 4.5 percent.

Here are just a few examples of CEO pay in healthcare and pharma. Leonard S. Schleifer CEO of Rgeneron Pharmaceuticals total compensation in 2015 was $47,462,526, Jeffrey M. Leeiden of Vertex Pharmaceuticals got $28,099,826 and Larry J. Merlo of CVS health took home $22,855,374

Who is worth that? Compare that to the $400,000 annual salary of the President of the United States who also gets a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. Add it all up and it doesn’t begin to compare with the health care and pharma CEOs.

I don’t know about any of you readers, but if I was the head of a pharma company making that much money and read about all the people who were dying or sick because they couldn’t afford meds I would likely shoot myself.

Because The U.S. just held elections it is too early to provide information on who chairs the committees in the house and senate that might influence the price of prescription drugs. This website might offer you some assistance. http://physics.mnstate.edu/cabanela/contacting_the_congress_shutdown.php

If you’d like to write to the President of the United States, Here’s his address.  If you write now your letter will go to President Obama. If you write after inauguration day on January 20th it will go to President Trump.

The President.
The White House.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500.

PLEASE SHARE THIS PIECE. NO PERMISSION NEEDED, BUT ATTRIBUTION APPRECIATED. 

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bob 2Bob Aronson is a former Journalist, Governor’s press secretary and international communications consultant. He is retired and lives with wife Robin in Jacksonville, Florida. Bob had a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in 2007 and spends most of his time promoting organ donation and writing blogs about donation/transplantation and related subjects. He is the founder of Facebook’s over 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and of Bob’s Newheart blogs where there are nearly 300 posts on subjects like this. http://www.bobsnewheart.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Why Prescriptions Cost So Much and What You Can Do About It


cartoon
A couple of weeks ago the news was filled with stories about Martin Shkreli the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, a relatively small drug manufacturer. Some media branded him with this headline world's biggest a holebecause he raised the price for one pill of Daraprim, a 62 year old drug,
from $13.50 to $750. That’s about 5,000 percent. Now, he says he will lower the price, but there’s no indication of how much or, as of this writing, when (According to Web MD Daraprim is used with other medication (such as a sulfonamide) to treat a serious parasite infection (toxoplasmosis) of the body, brain, or eye or to prevent toxoplasmosis infection in people with HIV infection).

As it turns out, though, the “World’s Biggest A–Hole case is not in the least bit unusual, it happens with pharmaceutical companies with great regularity as a tactic to increase profits on older drugs, drugs that have long since paid for themselves.

The global market for pharmaceuticals topped $1 trillion in sales in 2014. The world’s 10 largest drug companies generated $429.4 billion of that revenue. Five of these companies are headquartered in the U.S. They are: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck and Eli Lilly.

Johnson and Johnson, America’s biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer raised prices on over 130 brand name products this year alone. Merck & Co. raised the price of 38 drugs. The increases in the U.S. have added over a billion dollars of revenue in the last three years. So, while Mr. Shkreli may get the award for being the biggest you know what, he is in good company — only the others were smart enough not to brag about it.

Before I go on it is important to point out that my interest in the topic is both personal and professional. I am a senior citizen, who has had a heart transplant and who also has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I take a good number of prescription drugs and despite having Medicare Part D insurance I still pay thousands of dollars a year for my prescriptions. Most of the drugs I take have been around for quite a while, but not long enough to allow the sale of generics and because there are few if any pricing restrictions, most of my meds are outrageously high priced.

One of the drugs I take is called Foradil. It was approved by the FDA in February 2001 for the maintenance treatment of asthma and the prevention of bronchospasm in reversible obstructive airways disease. Despite being on the market that long, it still retails for about $250.00 for a 30 day supply. Spiriva is another COPD drug and is often taken with Foradil. It retails for about $350.00. I take about a dozen drugs and these two alone total over $600.00 a month. Insurance cuts that cost in half, but they are still expensive. Because of these prices I know of many seniors and others who have to choose between eating and paying for their prescription meds.

In Europe, Asia, Australia and anywhere else with some form of socialized medicine strict government regulation helps prevent those kinds of actions and subsequently keeps prices down. Things are a whole lot looser in the U.S.

In 2013 each of us spent over $1,000 on prescription drugs. That works out to $429 billion. In case that figure boggles your mind, let me boggle it more by showing you what it looks like in black and white — $429,000,000,000. By anyone’s measure that’s a lot of money. To put it all in perspective Prescription medications make up close to 10 percent of the $2.9 trillion annual total spent on healthcare in the U.S.

Americans spend more on drugs than any other country in the world and – we also pay more for them than any other country.

big pharmaBefore we go into detail on why prescription drugs cost more here than anywhere else, let’s look at the biggest drug and biotech companies in the world. They account for more than a third of the industry’s total market share according to the World Health Organization. We won’t go into detail but here’s the top ten and their 2014 revenue.

  • Gilead Sciences $24.474 billion.
  • Bayer $25.47 billion.
  • AstraZeneca $26.095 billion.
  • GlaxoSmithKline $37.96 billion.
  • Merck’$42.237 billion.
  • Sanofi $43.07 billion.
  • Pfizer 49.605 billion.
  • Roche $49.86 billion.
  • Johnson & Johnson $74.331 billion.

If you were to ask any of those companies why prescription drugs cost so much they would likely tell you that the price reflects the immense costs of research and development. They would explain that it costs millions andcosts millions of dollars to develop a new drug and then millions more to get through animal and human studies and FDA approval, and that’s partially true. Partially. Those costs are very high, but what big pharma won’t tell you is that you are also paying for the costs of marketing the drug to physicians and patients and those costs dwarf the research and development expense. http://tinyurl.com/pr23j3q

The world’s largest pharma company, Johnson & Johnson, spent $17.5 billion on sales and marketing in 2013, compared with $8.2 billion for R&D. Most of that marketing effort is aimed directly at physicians, the people who write the prescriptions, rather than customers like you and me. It should be noted that the U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow any form of advertising for prescription drugs.

No sane person can object to a company making a profit, it’s part of the American way, but the drug industry’s profits are excessive. At the risk of being accused of repetitiveness I must say again. We pay significantly more than any other country for the exact same drugs. United States spends more than $1,000 per person per year on pharmaceuticals. Per capita drug spending in the U.S. is about 40 percent higher than Canada, 75 percent greater than in Japan and nearly triple the amount spent in Denmark. So why is that?

Well, first the U.S. is a very rich and therefore lucrative market because we use more medicine than any other developed country. We account for 35 percent of the world market for pharmaceuticals. Americans have become quite accustomed to leaving their doctor’s office with a handful of prescriptions.

Due to our ill health and our wealth, companies often choose the U.S. in which to launch new products. And, because the US market is so big and profitable, investments in research and development have long been steered towards meeting clinical needs.

But if we Americans take more prescription drugs, we also pay an arm and a leg more for them. Why? Because other countries have tough regulations about pharmaceutical prices and they set reimbursement limits. MedicareAnother smart thing they do is to agree to pay for a drug only if the price is justified by the medical benefits. In the U.S., Medicare which is the world’s largest buyer of prescription drugs is prohibited from negotiating prices with drug companies. If the company says that a pill is $100, Medicare has no choice, but to pay it if the patient needs it. They have no wiggle room and that costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year in a direct giveaway to the pharmaceutical behemoths and speaks to the power of their lobbyists.

Speaking of lobbyists, here’s the real rub. The pharmacy industry views congress as a place to invest against future price controls and this is what really adds to the price of your prescriptions.

Big Pharma Spends More on Lobbying Than Anyone
lobbyistsSince 1998, the industry spent more than $5 billion on lobbying in Washington, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. To put that in context, that’s more than the $1.53 billion spent by the defense industry and more than the $1.3 billion forked out by Big Oil.

From 1998 to 2013, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.7 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry and 42 percent more than the second highest paying industry: insurance. And since 1990, individuals, lobbyists and political action committees affiliated with the industry have doled out $150 million in campaign contributions.

Now here’s how it works for you and me. In the U.S. insurers only accept the price set by the drug makers. If the drug is exclusive, meaning there is no competing medication from other companies. Insurers then cover the total cost by forcing a higher co-pay on patients. Unlike Medicare, insurers have bargaining power when there are competing drugs and therefore can reduce the co-pays.

generic drugs1Then, there is the Generic drug market, those are drugs in which the patent has run out and other manufacturers are allowed to produce the product. As an example the antidepressant Remeron is also known by its generic name Mirtazapine. Remeron is the brand name given it by the original manufacturer, but Mirtazapine can be made and distributed by any pharma company and sold for a much lower price.

Competition in that area is fierce and generic drug prices are usually low. Today generics account for about 85 percent of drugs dispensed in the U.S.

Despite generics and their low prices, there are still many Americans who daily make the choice between food or drugs, between paying the rent and drugs or giving up some other type of health care in order to afford the drugs that keep them going. Many Americans don’t take their recommended prescriptions because they can’t afford them. One recent survey showed that about one in five U.S. adults did not fill their prescription or skipped doses due to cost as opposed to Australia and some other countries where the ratio is one in ten. http://tinyurl.com/pejvoyn

Some people have turned to foreign sources for their prescriptions and advairthere are many with some of the more popular ones thriving in Canada. Here’s an example of the savings that can be had. If you want a three month supply of the popular asthma inhaler Advair it will likely cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 to purchase it from one of your local pharmacies. If you select one of the Canadian pharmacies you can import the same three month supply of the same medication, Advair, for about $150, with shipping included. That amount may not mean much to the Donald Trump tax bracket, but to average Americans it’s a whole lot of money. Advair is just the tip of the iceberg. ABC news reports the following price comparisons:

  • Mirapex, for Parkinson’s disease: $157 in Canada vs. $263 in the United States.
  • Celexa, for depression: $149 in Canada vs. $253 in the United States.
  • Diovan, for high blood pressure: $149 in Canada vs. $253 in the United States.
  • Oxazepam, for insomnia: $13 in Canada vs. $70 in the United States.
  • Seroquel, for insomnia: $33 in Canada vs. $124 in the United States.

Tufts University in Boston released a study in the year 2000 that placed the cost of approval for a single drug at $802 million, and that was fifteen years ago. To be fair it must be revealed that the dollar amount adds in each successful drug’s prorated share of failures (only one out of fifty drugs eventually reaches the market), but that still does not explain why the retail price is higher here than anywhere else.

The only logical explanation I can come up after some a fair amount of research is that pharmaceutical companies can get away with much higher prices in the U.S. and they can’t elsewhere. Period!

So what are your options, what can average patients who have difficulty Optionaffording some drugs do to stay healthy and be able to eat and pay their rent and other bills at the same time?

Well, there are several steps you can take. Among them are:

  • Contact state and federal legislators and ask them to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs
  • Also ask them to allow importing of essential drugs from foreign companies through approved pharmacies.
  • Ask big pharma companies to see if you qualify for their reduced prices for people who have trouble affording them.
  • Read the Consumers Report story on the issue. It will give you the information you need to identify trustworthy pharmacies. http://tinyurl.com/qbflucm

But, if you are like me you want even more detail. Ok. Here’s the best I can do.

You can shop for the best price and because of the internet that’s become a whole lot easier. You can look up a specific drug and find the best price at a pharmacy near you. Here are two resources. I’m sure you can find a lot more https://www.lowestmed.com/Search#/  orhttp://www.goodrx.com/ All you have to do is type in the drug you need and your zip code and it will find the price of that drug in pharmacies near you.

Transplant recipients might be interested in the cost of anti-rejection drugs. The price is hard to stomach but easy to find. In my zip code 32244 100 Mg Cyclosporine capsules range in price from $526.00 at Wall Mart to $584 at Target. If you are a heart patient and take Carvedilol in my neighborhood it ranges from $4.00 at Wal Mart to $9.54 at Kmart. Lisinopril also has a wide range. At the Publix Supermarket pharmacy near me it is FREE…that’s right FREE.  But at CVS it is $12.00.  Those price variations might make it worth a little longer drive to get a better bargain.

You can also get help with coupons which are an obvious choice to savecouponmoney when grocery or clothes shopping, but they’re often overlooked as a way to cut costs of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Manufactures frequently offer one time and repeat coupons that can save consumers hundreds of dollars on their medicines. “For our family it has been incredibly effective [in saving money] for a number of regular prescriptions,” says Stephanie Nelson, founder of the coupon website CouponMom.com.

The costs of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have been steadily rising and patients facing tight budgets are often forced to make hard decisions when it comes to what they can afford.

The savings vary by manufacturer, but many companies offer discounts at each prescription refill while others offer discount cards that take $20 off co-pays. Others offer one-time coupons to cover the first use of a drug.

  • Consumer Reports Magazine says that there are other ways to save money, too. Whichever drugstore or pharmacy you use, choosing generics over brand-name drugs will save you money. Talk to your doctor, who may be able to prescribe lower-cost alternatives in the same class of drug. In addition, follow these CR tips.
  • Request the lowest price. Our analysis showed that shoppers didn’t always receive the lowest
    available price when they called the pharmacy. Sometimes they were given a discounted price, and other times they were quoted the list price. Be sure to explain—whether you have insurance or not—that you want the lowest possible price. Our shoppers found that student and senior discounts may also apply, but again, you have to ask.
  • Leave the city. Grocery-store pharmacies and independent drugstores sometimes charge higher prices in urban areas than in rural areas. For example, our shoppers found that for a 30-day supply of generic Actos, an independent pharmacy in the city of Raleigh, N.C., charged $203. A store in a rural area of the state sold it for $37.
  • Get a refill for 90 days, not 30 days. Most pharmacies offer discounts on a three-month supply.
  • Consider paying retail. At Costco, the drugstore websites, and a few independents, the retail prices were lower for certain drugs than many insurance copays.
  • Look for additional discounts. All chain and big-box drugstores offer discount generic-drug programs, with some selling hundreds of generic drugs for $4 a month or $10 for a three-month supply. Other programs require you to join to get the discount. (Restrictions apply and certain programs charge annual fees.)
  • Experts say that although the low costs could entice you to get your prescriptions filled at multiple pharmacies, research indicates that it’s best to use a single pharmacy. That keeps all of the drugs you take in one system, which can help you avoid dangerous drug interactions.”

Finally, what do you do if you’ve done the shopping, used coupons, followed all of the Consumer Report Tips and are still unable to pay for your prescriptions? Well, there is some limited assistance. Here are some resources.

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bob half of bob and jay photoBob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,200 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love. You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net.  It only takes a few minutes. Then, when registered, tell your family about your decision so there is no confusion when the time comes.

 

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Prescription Medicine Buck


By Bob Aronson

cartoonI am a senior citizen, who has had a heart transplant and who also has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  I take a good number of prescription drugs and despite having Medicare Part D insurance I still pay thousands of dollars a year for my prescriptions.  Most of the drugs I take have been around for quite a while, but not long enough to allow the sale of generics and because there are few if any pricing restrictions, most of my meds are outrageously high priced.

One of the drugs I take is called Foradil.  It was approved by the FDA in February 2001 for the maintenance treatment of asthma and the prevention of bronchospasm in reversible obstructive airways disease..  Despite being on the market that long, it still retails for about $250.00 for a 30 day supply.  Spiriva is another COPD drug and is often taken with Foradil.  It retails for about $350.00.  I take about a dozen drugs and these two alone total over $600.00 a month. Insurance cuts that cost in half, but they are still expensive.  Because of these prices I know of many seniors and others who have to choose between eating and paying for their prescription meds.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that prescription drugs are more expensive in America than any other place in the world and as a result if you contract a serious illness like cancer you may not be able to afford the treatment that can save your life, even if you are insured.

It costs a whole lot of money to be sick in this country and a whole lot of people die — not because there iscartoon two no medicine or treatment but because they can’t afford to get well.  That strikes me as being just plain wrong.

Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, but prescription drugs lead the parade. Americans now spend a staggering $200 billion a year on them and the end is nowhere in sight.  The cost of staying alive is growing at the rate of about 12 percent a year.  It appears as though people are taking a lot more drugs than they used to and they are taking the really expensive new ones instead of older, cheaper drugs.  The reason?   Either physicians are pushing new medications too hard or, more likely, people are seeing the ads for new drugs in the media and are demanding them.  Strangely, unlike most other businesses where prices come down with time, that’s not true with drugs.  Price increases are commonplace even with the older ones and the increases aren’t one time adjustments. Often the price tag increases several times a year.

Earlier I pointed out that Americans pay more for their drugs than any other country in the world — but it isn’t just a little more…it’s a whole lot.  On average, the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. is at least double what people in other countries pay for the same exact prescription and it some cases it is 10 times more.

A 2013 report from the International Federation of Health Plans, says Nexium, the pill commonly prescribed for acid reflux, costs U.S. patients more than $200, while Swiss citizens only pay $60 and people who live in the Netherlands pay $23. But Nexium is a drop in the bucket compared to cancer drugs. http://www.drugwatch.com/2014/10/15/americans-pay-higher-prces-prescription-drugs/

Not long ago CBS’ 60 Minutes devoted a segment to the absurdly high cost of cancer drugs. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reported that many cancer drugs cost well over $100,000 for a year’s worth of medicine. She said that in the fight against cancer, most people can expect to be on more than one drug. The bill for medications can escalate to nearly $300,000, a price tag that doesn’t include fees charged by a doctor or a   hospital. Health insurance companies – including government polices like Medicare – don’t cover the full cost of these drugs. Some policies don’t cover some of these drugs at all. cancerrBut cancer is not alone in the extreme price arena. Drugs for chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis also carry inflated prices. Prescriptions of Copaxone and Gilenya cost about $4,000 and $5,500, respectively and that amount is almost three times more than the most-expensive price in other countries.

In the case of almost every other product sold on the free market, the older a product gets the less it costs. In the case of cancer drugs in America, the inverse is actually true. Novartis developed Gleevec, one of the most popular cancer drugs, in 2001 and sold it for $28,000 a year. By 2012, its cost rose to $92,000. Despite not being a novel treatment, Novartis is allowed to hike up the price every year in the United States.

So If you are a reasonably intelligent person you will ask three questions.  1) Why do these drugs cost so much? 2) What is being done to bring the prices down? And 3) Is there help available to people who can’t afford the drugs that can keep them alive.

Let’s answer the questions one at a time.  First.  Why are drugs so expensive?  Well, if you listen to the bigbig pharma pharma companies they will tell you that the cost reflects their investment in research and development of the drugs.  They will tell you they spend millions on drugs that don’t pan out and that expense is passed on to the patient.  But are they telling the truth?  No they aren’t! Pharmaceutical companies are fond of saying Americans take the lion’s share of the R&D costs for the rest of the world – calling other countries “foreign free riders.” So, drug companies are forced to charge Americans more to recover what they don’t get from other countries.

In fact, the more disturbing truth is that companies charge what they want in the U.S., and it’s a profiteering paradise for them.  U.S. law protects these companies from free-market competition.  For example, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prices. By law, it has to pay exactly what the drug companies charge for any drug.  In effect our lawmakers told the pharmaceutical companies that they can charge whatever they want and we (the taxpayers) will pay it. Even may insurance companies don’t negotiate or do it half-heartedly.  Companies make billions on most of these drugs, and they receive massive tax breaks for R&D, leading to inflated figures. Another huge portion of the costs are subsidized by taxpayers.

Here’s the sad part of all this R and D and the introduction of new drugs.  Only 1 in 10 of them actually provides substantial benefit over old drugs.  To add insult to injury the side effects of the new entries create the need for more drugs. And — some of these drugs have horrible complications that result in lawsuits to recover damages.

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Health professor and policy expert Donald W. Light says, “We can find no evidence to support the widely believed claims from industry that lower prices in other industrialized countries do not allow companies to recover their R&D costs so they have to charge Americans more to make up the difference and pay for these ‘foreign free riders,’”

In contrast, governments in other countries put caps on the price of drugs and negotiate prices based on what the actual therapeutic benefit is. And Big Pharma still turns a healthy profit in other countries, despite costs being 40 percent lower than they are in the United States.

Big Pharma would have many Americans believe that it is disadvantaged by the costs of developing a new drug. The truth is, drug companies are far from impoverished. EvaluatePharma’s most recent report shows that 2013 was the biggest year since 2009 for drug approvals. These new drugs will add nearly $25 billion to Big Pharma’s coffers by 2018, and prescription drug sales will exceed one trillion dollars by 2020.

The health care industry as a whole has more than enough money, with billions left to continue pursuing its interests in Washington.

Big Pharma Spends More on Lobbying Than Anyone

campaign contributionsSince 1998, the industry spent more than $5 billion on lobbying in Washington, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. To put that in context, that’s more than the $1.53 billion spent by the defense industry and more than the $1.3 billion forked out by Big Oil.

From 1998 to 2013, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.7 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry and 42 percent more than the second highest paying industry: insurance. And since 1990, individuals, lobbyists and political action committees affiliated with the industry have doled out $150 million in campaign contributions.

The world’s 11 largest drug companies made a net profit of $711.4 billion from 2003 to 2012. Six of these companies are headquartered in the United Sates: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly. In 2012 alone, the top 11 companies earned nearly $85 billion in net profits. According to IMS Health, a worldwide leader in health care research, the global market for pharmaceuticals is expected to top $1 trillion in sales by 2014.http://www.drugwatch.com/manufacturer/

But the large amount of cash Big Pharma bestows on government representatives and regulatory bodies is small when compared with the billions it spends each year on direct-to-consumer advertising. In 2012, theadvertising industry invested nearly $3.5 billion into marketing drugs on the Internet, TV, radio and other outlets. The United States is one of only two countries in the world whose governments allow prescription drugs to be advertised on TV (the other is New Zealand).

A single manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, spent $464 million advertising its blood thinner Pradaxa in 2011. The following year, the drug passed the $1 billion sales mark. The money in this business appears to be well-spent.

No sane person can object to a company making a profit, it’s part of the American way, but the drug industry’s profits are excessive.  We paysignificantly more than any other country for the exact same drugs. Per capita drug spending in the U.S. is about 40 percent higher than Canada, 75 percent greater than in Japan and nearly triple the amount spent in Denmark.

So you might ask, “What can I do to get the lowest possible price for my  prescriptions?”  Well, there are a few things.  You can shop for the best price and because of the internet that’s become a whole lot easier.  You can look up a specific drug and find the best price at a pharmacy near you.  Here are two resources, I’m sure you can find a lot more https://www.lowestmed.com/Search#/  or http://www.goodrx.com/ All; you pharmacieshave to do is type in the drug you need and your zip code and it will find the price of that drug in pharmacies near you.

Transplant recipients might be interested in the cost of anti-rejection drugs.  The price is hard to stomach but easy to find.  In my zip code 32244 100 Mg Cyclosporine capsules range jn price from $526.00 at Wal Mart to $584 at Target.  If you are a heart pateint and take Carvedilol in my neighborhood it ranges from $4.00 at WalMart to $9.54 at Kmart . Lisinopril also has a wide range.  At the Publix Supermarket pharmacy near me it is FREE…that’s right FREE.  But at CVS it is $12.00.  Those price variations might make it worth a little longer drive to get a better bargain.

You can also get help with coupons which are an obvious choice to save money when grocery or clothes shopping, but they’re often overlooked as a way to cut costs of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.  Manufactures frequently offer one time and repeat coupons that can save consumers hundreds of dollars on their medicines.  “For our family it has been incredibly effective [in saving money] for a number of regular prescriptions,” says Stephanie Nelson, founder of the coupon website CouponMom.com.

The costs of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have been steadily rising and patients facing tight budgets are often forced to make hard decisions when it comes to what they can afford.

The savings vary by manufacturer, but according to Nelson, many companies offer discounts at each prescription refill while others offer discount cards that take $20 off co-pays. Others offer one-time coupons to cover the first use of a drug.

Consumer Reports Magazine says that there are other ways to save money, too.  Whichever drugstore or pharmacy you use, choosing generics over brand-name drugs will save you money. Talk to your doctor, who may be able to prescribe lower-cost alternatives in the same class of drug. In addition, follow these tips.

  1. Request the lowest price.Our analysis showed that shoppers didn’t always receive the lowest couponavailable price when they called the pharmacy. Sometimes they were given a discounted price, and other times they were quoted the list price. Be sure to explain—whether you have insurance or not—that you want the lowest possible price. Our shoppers found that student and senior discounts may also apply, but again, you have to ask.
  2. Leave the city.Grocery-store pharmacies and independent drugstores sometimes charge higher prices in urban areas than in rural areas. For example, our shoppers found that for a 30-day supply of generic Actos, an independent pharmacy in the city of Raleigh, N.C., charged $203. A store in a rural area of the state sold it for $37.
  3. Get a refill for 90 days, not 30 days.Most pharmacies offer discounts on a three-month supply.
  4. Consider paying retail.At Costco, the drugstore websites, and a few independents, the retail prices were lower for certain drugs than many insurance copays.
  5. Look for additional discounts.All chain and big-box drugstores offer discount generic-drug programs, with some selling hundreds of generic drugs for $4 a month or $10 for a three-month supply. Other programs require you to join to get the discount. (Restrictions apply and certain programs charge annual fees.)
  6. Consumer Reports goes on to say that “although the low costs we found at a few stores could entice you to get your prescriptions filled at multiple pharmacies based only on price, our medical consultants say it’s best to use a single pharmacy. That keeps all of the drugs you take in one system, which can help you avoid dangerous drug interactions.”

Finally, what do you do if you’ve done the shopping, used coupons, followed all of the Consumer Report Tips and are still unable to pay for your prescriptions.  Well, there is some limited assistance. Here are some resources.

  1. http://www.medicare.gov/pharmaceutical-assistance-program/

2.http://www2.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Prescription_Drug_Patient_Assistance_Programs.htm

  1. http://healthfinder.gov/rxdrug

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bob 2Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,200 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net.  It only takes a few minutes.

Does Your Doctor Work for You or for the Drug Companies?


doctors prefer our drugs

Dr. Jon W. Draud, is the medical director of psychiatric and addiction medicine at two Tennessee hospitals.  It is likely that he is well paid for his administrative and medical expertise but according to ProPublica an investigative Journalism group the 47-year-old Draud has earned more than $1 million in the last four years for delivering promotional talks and consulting for seven drug companies and he’s not alone.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of physicians all over the country are also on the payroll of drug companies.

Look at these headlines:

Colorado doctors take big speaking fees from drug companies, data show

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22870273/colorado-doctors-take-big-speaking-fees-from-drugstethescope on mound of money

By Michael Booth and Jennifer Brown
The Denver Post

Posted:   03/26/2013 12:01:00 AM MDT

Colorado doctors who teach at major hospitals and universities continued to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from drug companies in 2012, sidestepping the institutions’ new restrictions on the lucrative payments.

Many private physicians also accepted speaking fees from pharmaceutical firms despite a spotlight on the practice, justifying their payouts as educational contacts with their peer

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I-Team: Nevada Doctors Accept Millions from Drug Companies

http://www.8newsnow.com/story/24001912/nevada-doctors-accept-millions-from-drug-companies

Posted: Nov 18, 2013 4:01 PM EST Updated: Nov 19, 2013 3:10 PM EST

By George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter –

By Matt Adams, Chief Photojournalist

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Does your doc get money from drug companies?

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/19/does-your-doc-get-money-from-drug-companies/

There has long been mystery surrounding how much, and to whom, drug companies give money.

propublica logoNow, ProPublica has put together all of these disclosures that have been appearing recently on the Web. The resulting project, called Dollars for Docs reveals that about $258 million worth of compensation from seven companies went to health care providers in 2009 and 2010.

The team of investigative journalists found that 17,700 providers received such payments. Most of the money went to physicians, but nurses and pharmacists were also included, ProPublica said. The reasons for this money included speaking, consulting, business travel and meals.

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So, what’s wrong with a physician getting paid to give speeches?  Well, for the most part nothing unless the payment causes the physician to prescribe one drug or device over another because of it.  There is nothing illegal about the practice but, is it ethical?    What it boils down to is this.  Does the physician always do what’s best for the patient or what’s best for his or her benefactor?  An example:  If Bristol-Meyers Squibb makes a high blood pressure medication that costs $25 a tablet and Abbot Labs makes one that sells for $2 each and both medications do the same thing does the physician prescribe the $2 pill or the more expensive one from the company that pays him an extra $100,000 a year to speak on their behalf?  That’s the point of our blog today and we are going to return to it shortly but first some background.

Becoming a physician is expensive and that expense can force some into finding creative, albeit ethically questionable waysmedical  school debt cartoon in which to pay down their medical school debt.

According to MedPage Today http://tinyurl.com/n22k6dz The average debt facing graduating medical students is about $156,000.  The Wall Street Journal worst case scenario for med school tuition debt is a whopping $550,000 tab run up by a family practitioner http://tinyurl.com/m5gcov6  That huge debt is the result of her deferring loan payments while she completed her residency, default charges and relentlessly compounding interest rates. Among the charges: a single $53,870 fee for when her loan was turned over to a collection agency.

While the debt appears to be outrageous it is made a little easier to handle when you consider the earning power of physicians.  .A Time Magazine survey of 24, 216 physicians across 25 categories showed doctors’ earnings ranged from about $156,000 a year for pediatricians to about $315,000 for radiologists and orthopedic surgeons. The highest earners — orthopedic surgeons and radiologists — were followed by cardiologists who earned $314,000 and anesthesiologists who made $309,000 http://tinyurl.com/7jl8v6a. But remember, these are averages.  Some Orthopedic surgeons earn over $625,000 a year, some neurosurgeons earn nearly as much while many pediatricians earn over $200,000.  http://tinyurl.com/78lkdtg

The lowest earning doctors are family physicians and pediatricians and in both professions .there is a shortage that is getting worse.  Witness the increasing use of Physicians assistants and Nurse Practitioners who can now perform some of the functions traditionally handled only by licensed physicians.

It is bad enough that you begin a career a quarter of a million dollars in debt but now add on malpractice insurance and we are looking at some seriously large payments.

It is estimated that your physician spends 10 cents on malpractice insurance from every dollar you pay for health care, according to handfull of moneyDiana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. http://tinyurl.com/mhk6p3n Furchgott-Roth notes that premiums vary from $20,000 annually in low-cost states to $200,000 annually in high-cost states. According to a survey published November 2011 in “Modern Medicine,” family and general practitioners paid premiums of $12,100, and pediatricians’ premiums averaged $11,800. OB-GYNs paid an average of $46,400, and plastic surgeons reported median premiums averaging $30,000.

A 2010 survey by the “Medical Liability Monitor” compared premiums for three specialties in various areas of the country. Internists in Dade County, Fla., paid $48,245 annually in 2010, while general surgeons paid $192,982. In comparison, internists in the lowest-cost areas of California paid only $3,200 and general surgeons had the lowest premiums in Minnesota at $11,306 annually. OB-GYN premiums varied from a low of $13,400 in the lowest-cost areas of California to a high of $204,864 in the counties of Nassau and Suffolk in New York.

The new physician will not be able to earn much money during his five years of residency training either. The average salary for a surgical resident is about $56,000 per year, which will force him to defer paying the principal on his loans while the interest keeps on accruing that’s how the physician in the earlier Wall Street Journal story piled up over a half million dollars in debt.

So now that we’ve established that it costs a lot to become a physician we piled on and added the cost of malpractice insurance.  The combination of student loans and insurance payments becomes for some, an unbearable burden even with a good salary. That leaves us with the question, how do you pay all that debt and still have something left to live on?  Well, the answer is simple and physicians don’t have to look too far to find some extra income.

Enter center stage — Big Pharma.   This is where the huge pharmaceutical companies can be the answer to many young physicianbig pharmas’ prayers.  Once they have MD after their name and maybe a few other medical credentials their opinions become worth a lot of money. If Bob Aronson endorses a medication it is pretty meaningless but if Dr. Bob Aronson endorses it people take notice and if you add Dr. Bob Aronson from (name any famous clinic or hospital) the credibility is even higher.

Doctors are still among the most trusted people in America.  A December 2012 Gallup poll ranked Physicians third on the list just behind nurses and pharmacists http://tinyurl.com/cz7orar When Doctors speak, people listen and more importantly, they believe what they hear.  That believability, sincerity, and credibility, coupled with the Marcus Welby or Grey’s Anatomy image of super compassionate service makes doctors the ideal spokespersons for almost any company.

Most news stories today that address the issue focus on the big pharmaceutical  companies like Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Abbot Labs and they do spend a lot of physician endorsements but so do the little pharma companies, those with but one product for which they are trying to get FDA approval.  They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of investor’s money to get physician endorsements.  I know because I worked as a communications consultant to many of them myself and travelled the country working with the docs on just how to phrase their endorsements.

Often a drug company will pay first class airfare to fly several physicians in from all over the country for a meeting.  Each doc gets a limo from the airport to the hotel, a very nice room, good meals a handsome stipend and professional help on how to endorse the company’s product.  If the issue is big enough and the physician is important enough the spouse might be invited as well and the trip could take three or four days and include several rounds of golf at exclusive clubs and perhaps a short meeting every day aboard a yacht .that is on a week-long cruise..

Often when a physician speaks to a gathering it is from a script prepared by the pharmaceutical company.  They get paid extremely well for doing nothing more than reading a speech prepared that was handed to them.  Physicians justify the practice by pointing out that the FDA and other agencies require specific language when speaking about specific drugs and being as the company has already fine-tuned the words and had them approved it makes sense to use their script.

dollars for docs keeperDollars for Docs is a site that keeps track of what Pharmaceutical companies pay to physicians, state by state.  You can look up your doc to find out if he or she is getting any money from the companies listed http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/

Physician endorsements of pharmaceutical products are important because they can help:

  • Gain approval from a regulatory agency for the use or expanded use of their drug or product.
  • Ratchet back the noise when there is a crisis.  For example, if a journalist finds a study that suggests your drug is unsafe or someone files a law suit claiming extensive damages or death it is reassuring to the public and to juries to hear a well-known physician say we shouldn’t worry, the drug is safe.
  • It’s just good advertising to have a doc endorse you.  “3 out of 4 Doctors recommend brand X.. Here’s what Dr. Smith from the renowned xyz institute has to say about it, …….”.

The Pro Publica site has made quite a splash.  Journalists all over the country have used it to gain information about local physicians.  On March 10 of last year, Susan Abram, Staff Writer for the Los Angeles Daily news wrote a story based on research from Pro Publica that outlined the situation in California. http://tinyurl.com/kjwrebp

“Hundreds of physicians, psychiatrists, and medical school faculty members across California are on the payroll of major drug companies, earning tens of thousands of dollars for speaking to other medical professionals at events held by industry leaders that make drugs such as Advair, Cymbalta, Viagra and Zoloft.

From 2009 to 2012, California doctors who participated were paid $242 million – the highest in the nation – by major drug companies for research, speaking, consulting, trips and meals, according to a new database released Monday by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit news organization.

The disclosures have been listed on the websites of some drug companies for several years, but a federal mandate will require it for companies by 2014.”

While the practice of speaking is not illegal, it raises the question of conflict of interest: Is the drug being given to you because you need it, or because the doctor writing out the prescription is paid by Big Pharma?  There really isn’t any way to tell.

So in the  final analysis, patients need to be far more vigilant and inquisitive about prescribed medications.  While clinical trials of drugs are usually quite thorough before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them, their full effect may not be known for years.  Even with large clinical trials with thousands of patients involved it is sometimes impossible to determine exactly what a drug will do to or for any given person because we are all very different from one another.

It is easy to understand that a physician who is deeply in debt wants to pay off the loans and live a more stress free life by endorsing certain medications.  I might do the same but they also have to exercise some caution with new high profile drugs that claim to perform miracles.  Let me name just three and you’ll then better understand that Big Pharma’s influence is real and it works for them but may not be in your best interest.

  1. Upon release everyone thought drugs like Fosamax the anti-osteoporosis drug (a biphosponate like Boniva and Actonel), fosamaxwas a Godsend but the FDA now says these drugs may in fact cause harm. In 2012 the FDA issued a report that said after years of use the drugs may in rare cases actually lead to weaker bones in certain women, contributing to “rare but serious adverse events,” including unusual femur fractures, esophageal cancer and osteonecrosis of the jaw, a painful and disfiguring crumbling of the jaw bone.”  The agency’s analysis, which found little if any benefit from the drugs after three to five years of use, may prompt doctors around the country to rethink how they prescribe them.

2. Then there’s Lipitor which was the best-selling drug in history.  Reports indicate that in 14 years the drug lipitorgenerated about 126 billion dollars for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.  Lipitor is a statin a class of drugs developed to block the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol.  It has Since been found that statin users run the risk of experiencing severe muscle pain and damage which can lead to serious kidney problems.

The danger with Lipitor in particular is that the standard dosage is far stronger than many patients need.  One physician wrote, “The Lipitor dosage guidelines do not distinguish between patients with or without heart disease. They do not distinguish between patients requiring large reductions and those needing small reductions. The recommended initial dose of Lipitor, 10 mg, is so powerful that doctors can treat many patients with the same dose and not have to bother matching the dose to individual patients.”

  1. And finally, Paxil the SSRI antidepressant that was the preferred method of treating Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome paxil(PTSS) among Iraq war veterans.   In 2007 the BBC did a story about a study that showed adolescents were six times as likely to become suicidal on the drug.  In 2005, the FDA revealed birth defects associated with Paxil including heart problems, seizures, feeding problems, vomiting, low blood sugar and a host of other symptoms.  Then it was revealed that some patients had extreme difficulty when they tried to stop taking Paxil According to a report in the British Medical Journal, in case after case, patients coming off the drug experienced nightmares, dizziness, burning and itching of the skin, agitation, sweating and nausea. And for many of those patients, the only way to treat the side effects was to begin taking Paxil again! http://hsionline.com/2006/02/06/the-dangers-of-paxil/#sthash.B9BKt990.dpuf

All of these drugs seemed legitimate, effective and relatively safe at first. A good number of  physicians got on the Fosamax, Lipitor and Paxil bandwagons and were paid handsome sums for their endorsements.  In retrospect it is obvious that many of the claims were premature and that the drugs probably endangered the people who were taking them.

To be purposely repetitious I will again offer this admonition.  Patients have to become far more knowledgeable about medical treatments and prescription drugs and we have to ask more questions.  When a physician recommends drug X for arthritis we need to ask if there’s a generic.  We also need to question physicians about whether the drug or treatment is really necessary. And  remember — sometimes it is important to get a second opinion. A good, honest physician will support that decision.

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Bob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder and primary author of the blogs on this site and the founder of Facebook’s over 3,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative group.

Now retired and living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Robin he spends his time advocating for patients with end stage diseases and for organ recipients.  He is also active in helping his wife with her art business at art festivals and on her Rockin Robin Prints site on Etsy. 

Bob is a former journalist, Governor’s Communication Director and international communications consultant.

Dr.

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