Big Pharma: Extorting Cancer Patients

Cancer is a terrible disease that afflicts the lives of many unsuspecting United States citizens. One day, they will be living a happy a healthy life. The next, they will be unable to breathe. For some, the progression of the cancer may go much slower and may even be unnoticeable for a long time. Regardless, many of the people who become ill do what any ill person should. They seek help from a physician.

The physician will run some tests and do a physical examination. Within a few weeks, the physician will carry the fateful diagnosis. If the word “cancer” is said, fear will make a home in the hearts of patients and family. They will be faced with a dilemma. The patient will have to choose treatment or inevitable death. For those that choose treatment, many financial sacrifices must be made because the cost of treatment is too high.

Extortion happens when someone gets something, often money, through force or threats. Extortion is exactly what happens to cancer patients who have not chosen to become ill. Big Pharma raises prices for cancer treating drugs to nearly unpayable levels. Big Pharma then threatens cancer patients. These extorted cancer patients are given an impossible ultimatum: they can choose to receive treatment they cannot afford, or they can die.

Since 1996, the price of injectable cancer drugs has gone up by 25%, amounting to 18% after accounting for inflation. For a lot of these drugs, the rate of price increase is much higher than the rate of inflation.

One of the fascinating thing about most cancer drugs is that they tend not to have a use outside of treating cancer. This means that they do not face much competition, and even when competition is introduced, the prices still go up. Uncontrolled price increases like this have affects outside of cancer. They cause health insurance rates to go up, and they cause patients to need to pay more money out-of-pocket.

Other countries experience high cancer drug prices, but the United States dominates in this field with its above-the-inflation-rate price increases. Each year, cancer drug prices go up by around 3%. The inflation rate sits around 1.9%. This means that it is possible for a drug to cost 42% more in the United States than is costs to get the same drug in the United Kingdom.

The only benefits of the uncontrolled cancer drug price increase are the Big Pharma companies. Patients with below-average or no health insurance simply cannot afford to have their cancer treated. Some patients have had to stop treatment because continuing would drive the family into poverty. Big Pharma extorts these cancer patients out of nearly every penny they own.

One of the ways this extortion continues is through buy-outs. Brand-name Big Pharma companies will sometimes purchase a competing company, allowing them to ensure a monopoly on the drug. Sometimes, the Big Pharma companies will pay generic companies to delay releasing a generic drug. Big Pharma companies also lobby to ensure cheaper drugs cannot be imported to the United States, which stops competition from other countries.

Another cause of the drug price increase issue is negotiation. In other countries, the government is allowed to negotiate drug prices with drug companies. In the United States, Medicare and the government are not allowed to negotiate extreme prices with the Big Pharma companies. Without negotiation, Big Pharma can do as it pleases with the prices of drugs.

Strict patent laws are another way Big Pharma companies are able to continuously raise the prices of cancer drugs. The drug patents allow them to sell drugs at whatever price they please for quite a long time. This cannot be combatted because there is no way to import cheaper drugs from other countries. Big Pharma lobbies against opening drugs to free market trade.

To stop Big Pharma companies from extorting cancer patients, the government could do a few things. First, the government could loosen drug patent laws to make a monopoly harder to come by. Second, the government could allow Medicare to negotiate prices with Big Pharma companies. Third, the government could open drugs to the free market so that cheaper drugs can be purchased from other countries.

The government would need to take action against Big Pharma for this to occur. The current presidential administration has offered many promises to reduce outrageous drug prices. Of course, no solid action has been taken, and the action that has happened amounted to more drug price increases. Since then, the government has shown no signs of trying to remedy the drug price problem.

Every day, another United States citizen is diagnosed with cancer. Every day, a United States citizen desires treatment. Every day, a United States citizen must choose between life and poverty or death and a safe family. Every day, Big Pharma continues to extort United States citizens by keeping potentially life-saving drugs at unnecessarily soaring prices.