Post-cancer, my doctor prescribed a lot of life-saving drugs. Most of them are covered by Medicare... but not all of them. Out of pocket costs for one is around $6,000/a month now, mostly because our system puts patents over patients. I buy most of my drugs overseas for around a tenth the cots-- not half-- a tenth. I've been buying high quality, inexpensive drugs in Thailand, Turkey, Mexico and France. But not Canada.
And Biden is working on allowing Americans to buy drugs from Canada as part of his competitive capitalism executive order he signed this afternoon, Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The idea is to direct the FDA to work with states to import Canadian drugs, something Trump said he would do but never accomplished, basically because of carrot and sticks from Big PhRMA.
Biden's executive order calls lower prescription drugs prices by September-- this September! Peter Sullivan, reporting for The Hill, wrote that "Allowing imports of cheaper drugs from other countries was part of Biden’s health care plan during the campaign, but Friday’s move is a step forward to take action on that front... Congress is currently working on sweeping legislation to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices, and Biden administration officials had previously pivoted to the congressional effort when asked about action on that front... [The executive order Biden signed this afternoon] also encourages the FTC to ban “pay for delay” agreements, where a brand-name drug company pays a generic drug company to delay introducing competition to a certain drug." It isn't like buying medicines in Thailand or Turkey, but it's a good first step. Both Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Chris Larson (D-WI) have told me that the real solution to the high cost of medicine in this country has more to do with shortening patent exclusivity than with importing drugs from other countries. But that will never happen while there are so many damned conservatives and status quo establishment members of the Senate-- from both parties.
Grayson went a little further today. "It’s genuinely puzzling to me what purpose is served by having sick people pay for properly prescribed drugs," he told me late in the day. "That should be the responsibility of health insurance or the government, as the case may be. How is this any different from any other legitimate medical need? It’s not as though people can shop around for the best bargain on cancer treatments. Drugs are patented, patents are monopolies, monopolies don’t compete on price. This is, basically, Economics 101, and the only people who don’t recognize this are people who benefit personally by ignoring it-- people like Marco Rubio, who has his hand out to every lobbyist inside the Beltway."
So did Larson: "Healthcare has been an illusion in America for so long, many of our neighbors don't realize how far we've fallen behind the rest of the world. I've met Wisconsinites who have to pay $6,000 out-of-pocket before their health insurance kicks in to cover prescriptions and services. So in reality, they never go to the doctor and problems persist. I met a woman last week who has been rationing insulin-- a drug necessary for 10% of diabetics-- because it costs $300 a vial. Insulin had their patent sold for $1 with the understanding the world would be able to get it for free. Luckily, that's true for most of the world. But here in America, where 15% of insulin is used, the pharmaceutical industry makes 50% of their global profits. Why? Because big pharma owns Congress and has rigged the system. I'm running to unrig that system, pass Medicare for All, and ensure my neighbors no longer have to worry about corporate profits standing between them and a healthy life."
There's only one candidate running for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina who takes this seriously enough: Erica Smith. "Congress," she told me this evening, "has ignored the overwhelming, bi-partisan demand of Americans to lower prescription drugs because too many of our 'representatives' are beholden to pharmaceutical CEO's over the folks who voted for them, over the folks who they're supposed to be representing and fighting for. Ted Budd's decision to repeatedly vote against efforts to lower prescription drugs costs is indicative of the corruption that runs rampant in Washington DC and ensures that our economy remains rigged, our healthcare system broken, and working people left struggling just to survive. When we say we cannot afford more of the same, we mean it. We can literally not afford another Congress that fails to act with the urgency required to address the crises bearing down on people like me, people whose lack of wealth and connections shouldn't be a condemnation to having to choose between putting food on the table and affording the medication we need."