PLEDGE NOW
The Mega Costs Of Miracle Drugs

Super expensive miracle drugs.  How much can we afford to pay? Plus, a look at a powerful new painkiller making headlines.

In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, employees of the New Hampshire state health department set up a temporary clinic at the the middle school in Stratham, N.H., to test hundreds of people for hepatitis C related to an outbreak at nearby Exeter Hospital. A new drug, Sovaldi, is said to successful treat more than 90 percent of Hepatitis C patients. (AP)

In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, employees of the New Hampshire state health department set up a temporary clinic at the the middle school in Stratham, N.H., to test hundreds of people for hepatitis C related to an outbreak at nearby Exeter Hospital. A new drug, Sovaldi, is said to successful treat more than 90 percent of Hepatitis C patients. (AP)

We all know drugs can be super-expensive in the USA, but how about this for a pharmacy bill?  The hottest new treatment for hepatitis C costs $1,000 a pill.  Eighty-four thousand dollars for a twelve-week course.  About three million Americans have hepatitis C.  Do the math.  Treat all those people and the whole system topples over.  Billions and billions.  But our system has no automatic brakes.  Americans want the best in drug therapies.  But as new drug prices climb, how far can we go?  When do we hit a wall?  Is it now?  This hour On Point:  super-expensive drugs, and the American way of health care.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

James Surowiecki, staff writer at the New Yorker, where he writes the financial page.

Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer of the pharmacy benefit management firm, Express Scripts.

Patricia Danzon, professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

From Tom’s Reading List

New Yorker: Biotech’s Hard Bargain — “In December the F.D.A. approved the first in a new wave of hep-C drugs, Gilead’s Sovaldi. This is huge news—not just in medicine but on Wall Street. Vamil Divan, a drug-industry analyst at Credit Suisse, told me, ‘Sovaldi and the other new hep-C drugs are great drugs for a tough disease.’ Sovaldi can cure ninety per cent of patients in three to six months, with only minor side effects. There’s just one catch: a single dose of the drug costs a thousand dollars, which means that a full, twelve-week course of treatment comes to more than eighty grand.”

NPR: Costly Hepatitis C Pill Shreds Drug Industry Sales Record — “To make the case for Sovaldi’s price, Gilead put together a chart of hepatitis C treatment costs for a variety of medicines. A combination of Sovaldi, a common form of interferon and the antiviral ribavirin, would cost $94,078 for treatment that would last 12 weeks. Other drug combinations that would take longer for treatment ranged from $64,825 to $106,673.”

New England Journal of Medicine: The Costs of Success — “Unfortunately, not all barriers to treatment will be lifted. The major limitation remaining will be economic. The current cost of a 12-week regimen of sofosbuvir alone is $84,000, or $1,000 per tablet. The addition of ledipasvir will add to the costs, and these estimates do not include expenses for diagnostic assays, monitoring, and physician visits.”

Painkiller Zohydro Sparks Addiction Concerns Anew

Lisa Girion, health and investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (@lisagirion)

Boston Globe: Drugmakers dual role as friend, foe – “Doctors prescribe way too many powerful painkillers in this country. The skyrocketing overdoses are mirrored by rising prescriptions for Oxycodone, Vicodin, and other opioids, especially for middle-aged people in chronic pain. Adding another powerful painkiller to an already saturated market, especially one that is easily crushed and snorted, means more prescriptions, more abuse, and, inevitably, more deaths.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Aug 31, 2015
This July 30, 2014 photo shows Margerie Glacier, one of many glaciers that make up Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park. With melting glaciers and rising seas as his backdrop, President Barack Obama will visit Alaska next week to press for urgent global action to combat climate change, even as he carefully calibrates his message in a state heavily dependent on oil. (AP Photo/Kathy Matheson)

The scramble for the Arctic. President Obama’s in Alaska. We’ll look at the stakes.

Aug 31, 2015
Oliver Sacks (Elena Seibert)

Oliver Sacks, celebrated neurologist and best-selling author, has died at 82. We’ll listen back to our remarkable 2013 interview with Oliver Sacks on life and aging.

RECENT
SHOWS
Aug 31, 2015
A television photographer takes video of a memorial for the two slain journalist in front of the studios of WDBJ-TV7 in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward from the station were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday.  (AP)

Lessons from the Roanoke TV shootings. We’ll look at the way forward with the New York Times’ Nick Kristof and other top thinkers.

 
Aug 28, 2015
Lightning first ignited the Meadow fire on July 20, 2014 in Yosemite. By September 8, the fire had charred 2,582 acres. Bernie Krause has recorded soundscapes of national parks destroyed by large areas of forest fires. Listen below.  (National Park Service)

A legendary natural sound collector shares his recordings. We’ll listen in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 28, 2015
Friday, Aug 28, 2015

You say #hashtag, we say, #forwhat? That, plus Usain Bolt and the ominous lurking Segway cameraman. Friday!

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: August 21, 2015
Friday, Aug 21, 2015

Do you even click? (And other reflections on link sharing and web commenting).

More »
6 Comments
 
Do You Recognize Amazon’s Workplace Culture? Tell Us!
Tuesday, Aug 18, 2015

Do you recognize the workplace conditions described in a recent New York Times piece on Amazon? We want to hear from you!

More »
5 Comments