It's not news that drug companies fleece us. I live it. It was 10 years ago this summer that I fell down some stairs one morning and, by the end of the day, learned that I was living with multiple sclerosis, a disease shared with more than 10,000 fellow Wisconsinites.
When I was diagnosed, the neurologist told me that this probably wasn't a death sentence, that these were exciting times for people living with MS. He told me that recent technologies, new drugs, were showing promise. Also during the visit, I learned that these new drugs couldn't be guaranteed to help, that the long-term effects of injecting the drugs for a lifetime were uncertain and that these drugs were "very expensive" - $800 per month. Hearing uncertain benefit, uncertain safety and unbelievably expensive, I said no, thanks.
A few years later, after awaking to realize my legs wouldn't work, I decided to begin using the expensive Interferon-B biological drug that I've since injected every other day. When I started, the drug cost was $980 per month. Six and a half years later, the drug costs almost $2,250 per month. It is no more effective now than when it cost more than $1,000 less per month. Coincidentally, I bought a different technology, a computer, the same year I started buying biological drug injections monthly. The computer cost about $2,000. Last year, I bought a new computer - this one was half the price and twice as fast, with five times the memory.
Why does one technology - a computer - get significantly better at a lower cost over time while another gets twice as expensive with no additional effectiveness - the drug?
This is an exceprt from a letter to the editor from Scott Hanson of Middleton, Wisc. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran it on April 19. Scott serves on the Federal Activism Council of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Read the complete letter here.