People Will Die..

How many ways can this administration kill people?

Scientists tell us that changes to environmental protection laws will lead to at least 80,000 additional deaths each decade.

The announcement that acceptance of refugees fleeing war and persecution will be capped at 30,000 per year–the lowest number ever–has been condemned by Amnesty International, The International Rescue Committee and Human Rights First.  What those organizations labeled a “shameful abdication of our humanity” will result in untold numbers of deaths.

The GOP’s solicitude for the “rights” of the NRA continues to facilitate more than thirty thousand gun deaths each year.

Those are all fairly high-profile issues, and at least they’ve generated public debate.

Unfortunately, there has been much less publicity about the government’s ongoing refusal to impose rational regulations on Big Pharma. (Here in Indianapolis, our pathetic excuse for a newspaper simply ignored a recent demonstration protesting Eli Lilly’s pricing of insulin– instead, it ran a front-page “warm and fuzzy” article about the company’s new migraine drug). That failure, too, continues to kill.

If you wonder why single-payer healthcare has become such an overriding political issue, the case of insulin pricing may provide a clue.

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. Its incidence continues to climb, and huge numbers of diabetics are insulin-dependent.

According to information provided by an organization called “Insulin4All”

  • the price of insulin has increased 1123% since 1996. This isn’t because of new discoveries–prices have increased on medications that have been around for decades.
  • More than 7 million Americans are insulin dependent. More than 25% of those Americans  have had to ration their insulin due to cost.
  • Over 6,000 GoFundMe pages are asking for money to purchase insulin. (Shane Patrick Boyle, an artist who had moved to Arizona to take care of his mother and was in between health insurance plans, died from diabetic ketoacidosis. He was $50 short in his Go Fund Me for insulin.)
  • Some people are paying $1400 a month for their insulin.

The Insulin4All organization is asking two things. First, it wants pharmaceutical companies to disclose their manufacturing costs and profits, along with their marketing expenditures. Second–and incredibly important for all health care, not just diabetes treatment–they want the government to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate drug prices, like other countries’ governments do.

In all fairness, this isn’t the first administration and congress to place the bottom line of drug manufacturers above the needs of sick people needing medicines. It has to stop.

Big Pharma will claim that R & D costs a lot of money, and that those costs justify high prices for their products. It is absolutely true that research and development is costly–but it is also true that a significant percentage of those costs are covered by taxpayers who also deserve a return on their investment.

Since the election, the federal government has cut back on support for basic research (an enormously self-defeating, “penny-wise, pound foolish” policy). Data from the National Science Foundation shows that, since those cutbacks, federal agencies provided “only” 44% of the $86 billion spent on basic research. Before that, however, the federal share of all research routinely topped 70%, and it was 61% as recently as 2004.

In addition, foundations, state and local governments, voluntary health associations and professional societies support drug research and development.

No one is suggesting that Big Pharma forgo a reasonable profit. What is reasonable, however, cannot be determined without increased transparency about actual costs, and the share of those costs coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

People who need insulin are dying because they cannot afford it. A lot of people.

Maybe the drug companies could run fewer television ads prompting people to ask their doctors for Purple Pills and the like, and use those savings to bring down the cost of lifesaving medications.

And maybe an administration and a Congress less beholden to corporate interests and big money would consider policies less likely to kill people.

24 thoughts on “People Will Die..

  1. Diabetes test strips, insulin, epiPens, Harvoni is a miracle drug which cures Hepatitis C…at $1,152.58 PER PILL, inhalants for those with severe lung disorders (caused by the increasing pollution) are cost prohibitive. Over-the-counted medications are also becoming costly; many were placed on the OTC level to end health care partial coverage of prescription costs. Of course; people have to have some form of decent health care to qualify for prescriptions they cannot afford. Those like my daughter-in-law, age 65 and herself a U.S. Army veteran after 12 years active service followed by 8 years active National Guard service on standby because she was part of a medical team has received the typical lack of medical care by the VA who ignored her serious health problems till she was near death – TWICE. Now she needs assisted living but none is covered by VA or Medicare. The cost of her prescriptions and co-pays for medical care have her deep in debt…along with millions of other Americans who will die.

    “And maybe an administration and a Congress less beholden to corporate interests and big money would consider policies less likely to kill people.”

    Then again; she, like millions of others in this country voted for Trump on the say-so of Republicans without ever watching one Trump Rally or speech…until sitting in my living room after helping elect him, glued to MSNBC to see him in action. She told me she leaves my home angry and afraid after seeing the truth. Her daughter, who was also convinced by her new husband to vote for Trump, has now seen him in action and finds him “disgusting”. Her brother and sister-in-law (he is a paramedic in the U.S. Navy) decided to reenlist a year ago for the the (please don’t laugh) VA health care and they loved Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again”. When needed recently, little heath care was available for an active paramedic in the U.S. Navy.

    Is Veterans Administration part of corporate America or is it beholden to them like the rest of us? Medicare is at the mercy of Big Pharma; dropping benefits while raising our monthly premiums and fighting to cut funds and lower Social Security and Disability. Add to this picture the fact that funeral costs continue to rise so we can’t afford to live or die in this country.

    VOTE BLUE!

  2. Indiana foundations and members of our legislature remain quiet about anything that might affect Lilly’s profits because this mamouth corporation buys their silence through gifts to so many philanthropic organizations that depend on their gifts.

    Pharma was even given a financial boost with the new NAFTA 2.0. Below is a portion of an AP article –

    A WINDFALL FOR DRUG COMPANIES

    The new trade pact delivers a windfall to pharmaceutical companies that make biologics —ultra-expensive drugs produced in living cells. It gives them 10 years of protection from generic competition, up from eight the Obama administration had negotiated in the TPP. But good news for the pharmaceutical industry could be bad news for users of the drugs and for government policymakers trying to hold down health-care costs.

    “New monopoly privileges for pharmaceutical firms … could undermine reforms needed to make medicine more affordable here and increase prices in Mexico and Canada, limiting access to lifesaving medicines,” Wallach said.

  3. Maybe the drug companies could run fewer television ads prompting people to ask their doctors for Purple Pills and the like, and use those savings to bring down the cost of lifesaving medications.

    And maybe an administration and a Congress less beholden to corporate interests and big money would consider policies less likely to kill people.

    And in Wayne Campbell’s words: “Maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.”

    I can see no end to the overriding influence of corporate money in our political system. Control of virtually every elected body is in the hands of the corporate-owned Republicans and is orchestrated by Mitch McConnell who is shameless in his actions and words. I hope the Blue Wave is real, but I wonder if it occurs, will it make any difference.

  4. JoAnn, My mom receives $ 1000 for assisted living that’s it from the VA. Certainly anyone who served should get that. VA benefits have been slow and our government too slow to react. Politicians vowed to make things better, are they?
    What are the manufacturing costs to produce insulin? A 3% increase per year due to inflation is less than a doubling of the price over 22 years.
    Over the last few years insurance policies have shifted to high deductibles causing many to people to face the full brunt of the list price and dont benefit from having a small copay as in the past. But if $225 a vial is the cost for Lilly’s insulin, how much benefit does a 40% rebate offer for those with high deductibles. 22 years ago it was about $25 a vial.
    Letters to your Senators, Congressman and the President will benefit many.

  5. I worked in pharma (CROs and big pharma) and I have some observations. First is the consumer is paying for the failures of drugs to get to market. Many companies can’t/won’t kill compounds in early discovery/development.

    In the labs there is unnecessary duplication, where stuff that every one has a use for is ordered on an individual basis—not stocked for the group to use.

    Outsourcing really doesn’t save any money because of the need of extra oversight. Sure big pharma isn’t paying benefits, etc. but then they’ll bring all that work back in to “save money”.

    Consumers are paying for advertising, sales and overhead for the companies.

  6. JoAnn,

    Your daughter-in-law needs help navigating the VA System. She should get in touch with one of the service organization, like DAV. They have specialists who work in the VA to help veterans get the benefits they deserve. She should also contact the Women Veterans Coordinator at the medical center. Like most large government agencies, VA is a giant labyrinth, and finding your way through takes help. Sounds to me like she qualifies for services she’s clearly not getting.

    As to the cost of research and development, Sheila is absolutely on point about where the money comes from. Between NIH, DoD, and VA, billions are spent on both basic science and drug development. Since the passage of Bayh-Dole, the government does get some return on its investment, clearly not proportional to its value. But there is one other area that should be looked at. That is Phase Four drug trials. The costs of these trials are, like the cost of all research done by drug companies, tax deductible. They are considered research, but what they actually are is market research. They are post-approval trials designed to test efficacy of one drug vs another or in combination with another. In other words, what’s the best way to sell this drug?

    Want to do something about healthcare?

    VOTE BLUE!!

  7. Two discouraging facts. We pay much more for the same drugs than other developed nations. Just this extra amount that we pay amounts to over 160% of Pharma’s worldwide R&D spending. Translation: our very high prices are not justified by research costs. Two, the pharma companies spend more on dividends and stock buy-backs than on research.

  8. John and Peggy; thanks for your information, I will let my granddaughter know, she is handling her mother’s health care.

    BTW; the comments were posted above and on the Archives list when I posed my comment about them missing…thanks

    VOTE BLUE!

  9. so the bastards are winning?… why? because they sit in offices we supposedly elected them to. Simple we wipe the slate clean in November and set the ship of state aright – ? – maybe? Of course there are people out there that don’t possess a wit of human sense – and in droves so who knows – I am busy printing flyers with quotes from the Constitutions Preamble and reprinting the cover of the New York Daily News* to distribute in my local library and bank notice boards – It is time.
    *The one with drumpf holding his boyfriend Vlads hand and shooting Uncle Sam in the head… If nothing else I won’t let the bastards forget – we KNOW what he has done – we know he is a traitor to this nation and we know we WILL rid this nation of him and his ilk – it might take a bit – but this nation doesn’t stand for treasonous bastards. I hope other folks are doing the same! We need to make this a true social action – “BITCH GOTTA GO!”

  10. As a Type 1 diabetic, drug prices hit close to home. The insurance company switches insulin often and the recent change increased the prices I pay. It also forced me from self-employment to having to find a job with benefits even though the high deductible plans are making research self-employment once again.

    Exchanging my labor for shitty pay and crappy benefits isn’t much incentive.

    Now, we’ve had generations stuck on small government stipends and free insurance. The GOP wants to kick them off and make them work. Most have the educational backgrounds which would qualify them for minimum wage gigs which offer NO benefits. They’ll die…suicide or lack of health coverage (prevention).

    The comments are perfect except for one major connection which most experience but don’t the why’s behind it.

    Drug manufacturers marketing is the same as political marketing. Guess who receives those marketing dollars?

    A full-page ad in the newspaper or 30-second spot on TV are expensive. Very expensive.

    As Noam Chomsky pointed out in the late 80’s, the payment of marketing dollars to local, regional and national media firms buys you preferential treatment from the media companies. Ad revenues keep media companies afloat.

    And no, OMG, I don’t pay for a newspaper subscription nor do I even buy one. It’s an inferior product but since they’ve lost subscribers, which nearly all daily newspapers have, guess who they depend on to pay for stagnant wages?

    Advertisers.

    Someone once told me that they appreciate my work but that I was wrong about the Ball family controlling the local newspaper. Their point was businesses advertised in the newspaper- not philanthropists. I bought a local newspaper and cut out all the commercial ads and 70% of the ads were from non-profits. Guess who funded their existence, including marketing budgets?

    Guess who kept the doors of the Chamber of Commerce open? The Ball family through a shell non-profit. Very few people make the connection because it’s done through shell companies.

    Well, if this is happening in Muncie, guess who has major control of Indianapolis?

    Last I checked, the Lilly Foundation is a foundation set up of Eli Lilly stock. If the company does well, the community prospers from high stock prices which creates more gifts bestowed upon local non-profits who buy advertising in the IndyStar. And on, and on…

    The Lilly Foundation is also behind the Mind Trust which has been a major leader in privatizing public schools. In fact, they started it in Indianapolis.

    This is capitalism in a nutshell…Lilly spends an incredible amount of money on politicians as well on BOTH sides of the aisle, but mainly Democrats. This is why Joe Donnelly never votes on progressive policies for healthcare.

    These “investments” are made to politicians and our media which buys their loyalty. According to how our democracy works, politicians and the “free press” was supposed to WORK FOR THE PEOPLE.

    Neither do.

    We don’t have a properly functioning democracy or society because there are no checks and balances on power.

    I’m not sure if we ever had a functioning democracy or society but that’s a debate for another day…

  11. Perhaps the drug companies should raise the price of the purple pills 1100% and lower the price of insulin. That would save lives with no equivalent downside.

  12. Making profits off the backs of the most vulnerable is an underlying tenet of unregulated capitalism. Drug companies are in the vanguard of exploiting this tenet because they CAN be there. They are ALLOWED to gouge and exploit. It’s what capitalists and their cost accountants do. Drug companies don’t give a damn about peoples’ health. They WANT people to be sick and ill so they can make more money.

    Years ago the president of Abbott Labs said, “We’re not in business to cure illness. We’re in business to make money.” Enough said. Lily is just following the golden path laid down by unregulated capitalism brought to us all by Republicans.

    VOTE THEM ALL OUT.

  13. JoAnn, your early statement interested me in the fact that it seemed to be critical of the V.A. I am a veteran of the Korean War and have been enrolled at the Indianapolis V.A. Center for over 20 years and consider it the best there is. In addition to the doctors who look after me, the medications are easy to pay for.

  14. Politicians in India did a remarkably sensible thing a few years ago. They decided that they would not honor the patents on a life-saving drug if the price was too high, and instead would allow it to be produced in-country at a lower cost. I’ve not read anything since that announcement so don’t know how it eventually worked out. Never-the-less it was the right thing to do.

    When I was a younger person, other than ads for aspirin, etc., there were no drug ads on TV. No ads for lawyers either. Now I am bombarded by “ask your doctor about . . . ” anytime I am desperate enough to turn on the TV.

    Basic health care should be the lowest cost possible–and, as it is in civilized countries–it should be provided for all. Drug prices should be negotiated. Price gouging should be punished–just as business can be punished for raising the price of necessities during/after a hurricane. RICO charges need to be filed. It is, as much as in any dedicated crime syndicate, organized.

    I saw a meme the other day. It was a picture of tree stumps. The caption was: “Yes, the forest was shrinking, but the trees, seeing the ax handle was made of wood, thought it was one of them and kept voting for it.” (The quote is from memory but you get the drift)

    By the way, Mitch McConnell’s daughter is CEO of the company raising insulin prices.

    We’d better get serious about saving ourselves or all that will remain is rotting stumps.

  15. Irvin; my UNCLE got good care at VA, too. My daughter and I visited my daughter-in-law after heart-related surgery at Methodist Hospital where VA had transferred her after they had misdiagnosed an aortic aneurism. She was barely conscious, strapped up in a wheelchair trying to eat a spaghetti dinner; dropping it down her front and onto the heart monitor. A male nurse came in and told us she wasn’t responsive because he had accidentally given her twice the prescribed dosage of medication. This was at Methodist but VA coverage. My daughter-in-law and I visited her in the VA Medical Center after another surgery; this one delayed repeatedly; she was unable to speak due to the tube in her throat. We asked the nurses for information about her condition but they didn’t know; said they were only weekend replacements and weren’t familiar with the patients. With my big mouth; I let them know that she was the veteran and not a family member of a vet. My ex-HUSBAND, another male vet, also got good care here in the VA Medical Center. Years ago, when my cousin who was in the Navy was visiting her with his pregnant wife who miscarried. She was admitted to the hospital; had to change sheets on her bed and mop her area. Coincidental sexism, who knows.

    VOTE BLUE!

  16. I am a Veteran and avail myself of their services here in Indianapolis. I have not had an issue with the Heath Care they provide. The DAV is as Peggy noted a good source. The DAV is one of the few organizations I donate to.

    What angers me is how eager our elected politicians are to lavish billions of dollars on our military and brag about it. When is the last time an elected politician has went to the VA Hospital, other than for a photo-op and asked the veterans to comment on their heath care. I suspect the answer is zero.

    Todd commented: “The Lilly Foundation is also behind the Mind Trust which has been a major leader in privatizing public schools. In fact, they started it in Indianapolis.”

    By the way: Our Board for Mind Trust includes Bart Peterson. Former Mayor, City of Indianapolis (Chair). From WIKI:

    In 2001, the Mayor of Indianapolis became the nation’s only mayor with the authority to charter schools.

    Peterson remains involved in community activities in Indianapolis, particularly as the Chair of the Board of Directors for The Mind Trust, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2006 with his former charter schools director David Harris to promote entrepreneurship in education.

    In June 2009, Peterson joined Eli Lilly and Company as senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications. This is the same position Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels previously held.
    ===================================================================
    I am always suspicious of Non-Profits – Who are their Paymasters???

    Todd, also posted: “Lilly spends an incredible amount of money on politicians as well on BOTH sides of the aisle, but mainly Democrats. This is why Joe Donnelly never votes on progressive policies for healthcare.” True, True.

    Just to complete the circle: Susan B. Bayh (wife of Evan Bayh) From 1989 to 1994, Ms. Bayh served as an Attorney in the Pharmaceutical Division of Eli Lilly and Company, where she handled federal regulatory issues for marketing and medical affairs, a director of Anthem Insurance from 1998 to May 2003.

  17. Irvin; don’t know how I could forget these instances of VA medical care of a veteran. The daughter-in-law who now needs assisted living, while she was in VA Medical Center 3 years ago with the tube in her throat, no idea which shift of nurses broke her eyeglasses and threw out her lower dental partial plate which they had removed to insert the tube. After that hospitalization she required more dental work and had to get a full upper dental plate; last month one of the hospital staff threw away her upper dental plate. Good thing she wasn’t a prisoner of war in a foreign country but here in the good old U.S. of A. receiving VA medical care. Just sayin’

    VOTE BLUE!

  18. Spot on, Sheila. I just read a study, but don’t recall the source, that discovered that advertising of prescription drugs outstrips R & D by a huge margin. Patients cannot obtain these drugs without a prescription, so the purpose of advertising is to get patients to pressure their doctor to prescribe these drugs, all of which drives up the cost. Patients cannot possibly know what psoriasis, diabetes, cancer or other drug is best for them. The commercials are full of happy people doing fun things, graduations and weddings, generally leading a better life. I wonder whether doctors or other prescribers really know which particular drug is most-effective. They only know what Big Pharma puts out. As product liability lawsuits prove, this cannot be sufficient, or there wouldn’t be so many national law firms advertising for clients. Drug and product testing is either not properly designed or not conducted long enough to ferret out the real dangers of new drugs and devices.

    Now that the SCOTUS is stacked, look for Obamacare to go away, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as well as SNAP benefits. People will die. That’s what was at stake. I’m so sick of winning.

  19. JoAnn, I do not and did not intend to take issue with you over the V.A. care, I was just responding that in my case all has gone well. 🙂

  20. JoAnn,

    Any time you have an issue like that ask to speak to the Patient Advocate. Week-end staff are not substitutes for real staff. They are VA employees and have the medical information available in their computers. All they have to do is look it up. Additionally, they are charged with the CARE of the veteran. If they don’t believe that, they need to be reminded, emphatically.

  21. Our Constitution promises we the people a liberal democracy of, by and for us in which we are represented by those who serve at our discretion.

    Our problem is that nefarious forces have used the influence of entertainment media to create a minority which has been promised power instead of freedom if certain representatives were elected.

    The current failure of all of our Constitutional promises was predictable and in fact was predicted in 2016 when too many of us did not vote at all much less for our rights.

    We are where we collectively chose to be.

    Nov 6 will be our second and potentially final chance for recovery.

    Are there enough of us fed up with the dysfunction presently consuming the republic to fire it while the choice is still ours?

    We will see.

  22. Irvin: “I am a veteran of the Korean War and have been enrolled at the Indianapolis V.A. Center for over 20 years and consider it the best there is. In addition to the doctors who look after me, the medications are easy to pay for.”

    Me too. And in those 20-plus years (a few hundred appointments), the VA providers have never made me wait even 20 minutes for service. They have never recommended procedures that I don’t need, so that they get kickbacks from specialists. They have never prescribed meds that I don’t need, in order to please big pharma. They have never made me fill out forms prior to service, so that their bill collectors can find me and have leverage over me. They have never denied me service because of preconditions. And they have never designated some generic clerk, afraid he/she will displease the boss, the responsibility to decide whether my procedure is covered, as happens with insurance companies and the private medical system.

    The VA’s competence has sold me on the viability of a single pay universal health system.

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