Thursday, October 6, 2016

Waiting for the Other Shoe

I buy drugs and give them out gratis. Ten years ago generic Lomotil, the leading diarrhea remedy, jumped from about $20 per thousand to over $200. I switched to Imodium which is probably as good. It’s sold over the counter at Walmart. I buy a lot of drugs at Walmart.

In 2014, I wrote that I tried to reorder doxycycline, an old antibiotic that remains the best treatment for several common infections. My supplier’s web site quoted $1,600 for 500. I knew that was a typo because I’d paid $30 the year before. But it wasn’t. Fortunately, there’s another antibiotic that works well at only four times the old cost. 

Some of you are aware of the furor over the skyrocketing price of Epipen, a device that makes it easy to inject adrenalin during a severe allergy attack. Google it if you’re not. Read the justification from the company’s chief executive. Doesn’t it sound smarmy and dishonest? Don’t you hate her? Epipen is sold throughout the world at the old price, and the company does not complain that it’s losing money.

Congressional Republicans have joined Democrats in denouncing the increase. The furor will fade; the price will remain. Unique among western nations, American government agencies are forbidden from influencing drug prices, and no one to the right of Bernie Sanders is suggesting a change.

Several times a year a similar kerfuffle hits the headlines and runs its course, but I deal with it regularly. A year ago a bottle of my antibiotic ear drops went from about $8.00 to $300. So far antibiotic eye drops haven’t done the same, and experts say one can substitute them, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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