When cap­i­tal­ism tests pa­tri­o­tism

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I love my coun­try, and have al­ways sup­ported the idea of cap­i­tal­ism. But when the Amer­i­can Dream comes at the ex­pense of the sick, I ques­tion my pa­tri­o­tism.

Last week­end I was tak­ing a friend to lunch, and on the way I had to visit my phar­macy drive-thru to grab some re­fills. As a kid­ney trans­plant pa­tient I take sev­eral pills a day, in­clud­ing two pre­scrip­tions that fo­cus on keep­ing my trans­planted kid­ney from be­ing re­jected by the rest of my body. Those were the bot­tles I was get­ting re­filled, and warned my friend the at­ten­dant would be hes­i­tant to tell me how much it would cost. I told her that hap­pened ev­ery time I got these re­filled, since even the phar­macy staff is sur­prised by the num­ber that pops up on the register.

“Um, Miss Carter, these are rather ex­pen­sive. The to­tal is $313.”

I as­sured him I’d ex­pected that, and handed him my credit card. As I signed for the pur­chase, my friend took the bag and looked at the bot­tles. She in­quired how much the generic ver­sions would cost, and I ex­plained those were the generic drugs.

I am for­tu­nate enough at the mo­ment to have a full-time job with ben­e­fits, so the $313 is my CO-PAY. I can’t even imag­ine how much it would cost me with­out in­sur­ance to keep my trans­planted kid­ney safe, keep­ing me alive. In the 13 years since the trans­plant, those pre­scrip­tion bills have in­creased. And since I’ll have to take these med­i­ca­tions the rest of my life, there’s no telling how much worse it will get.

I learned later that evening that other pa­tients have it much worse. How much worse? Try $100,000 a year for one med­i­ca­tion if you have can­cer.

It was in a re­port by Lesley Stahl on CBS, ex­plor­ing the ex­pense of can­cer drugs. She in­ter­viewed sev­eral doc­tors, in­clud­ing lead­ing colon can­cer ex­pert Dr. Leonard Saltz, who used the term “fi­nan­cial tox­i­c­ity.” He says in­di­vid­ual pa­tients are go­ing into bank­ruptcy try­ing to deal with these prices. He

“I am for­tu­nate enough at the mo­ment to have a full-time job with ben­e­fits, so the $313 is my CO-PAY. I can’t even imag­ine how much it would cost me with­out in­sur­ance to keep my trans­planted kid­ney safe, keep­ing me alive.”

says get­ting started on all the nec­es­sary can­cer med­i­ca­tions could run a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars!

Hous­ton’s Dr. Hagop Kan­tar­jian added that one thing that has to change is the law that ties the hands of Medi­care. Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, a law was passed that pro­hibits the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from ne­go­ti­at­ing with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies for bet­ter prices for drugs. What­ever price the drug com­pa­nies tag onto a med­i­ca­tion, Medi­care has to pay it.

“High can­cer drug prices are harm­ing pa­tients, be­cause ei­ther you come up with the money, or you die,” Kan­tar­jian told Stahl.

Cap­i­tal­ism is de­fined as “an eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in which a coun­try’s trade and in­dus­try are con­trolled by pri­vate own­ers for profit, rather than by the state.” I ap­pre­ci­ate the ideal that cap­i­tal­ism ac­com­mo­dates any­one will­ing to work hard enough to­ward any am­bi­tion. Our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment was cre­ated by peo­ple flee­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where only the rich made the rules. How­ever, it seems the United States is com­ing full cir­cle back to the mother coun­try, and do­ing so by tak­ing ad­van­tage of the vul­ner­a­ble.

What can we do? Get in­volved in pol­i­tics. Drug com­pa­nies spend more on lob­by­ing than on any other in­dus­try, so reach­ing out to your elected of­fi­cials is the best de­fense against these spe­cial in­ter­ests. Your life, or the life of some­one you love who has not yet been di­ag­nosed with an ex­pen­sive dis­ease, may de­pend on it.

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