Patients with AIDS and cancer are now facing even greater risks to their health due to an almost criminal price increase for a drug that fights toxoplasmosis, the second most common food-borne disease. Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York, has raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill. The medical community is in uproar, especially doctors who prescribe the medication to patients with weakened immune systems.
“This is a tremendous increase,” said Judith Aberg, a spokesperson for the HIV Medicine Association, in an interview with USA Today. She and many other health-care professionals are concerned about patient access to the drug. Daraprim (pyrimethamine) shortages could put patients at risk if hospital stocks of the drug dwindle due to the exorbitant price.
The increase is shocking, and the news comes at a time when medication costs are under scrutiny. These increases have been a topic of discussion during presidential debates of late. Turing has owned the rights to Daraprim since 1953, and they have the right to change the price of their product, with very few restrictions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 60 million American men, women and children carry the toxoplasmosis parasite, but symptoms never present due to healthy immune system responses. “However, women newly infected with Toxoplasma during pregnancy and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware that toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences,” warns the CDC.
Toxoplasmosis can be passed from mother to fetus, or can be contracted during a transplant. In these scenarios, symptoms can include blindness and brain damage. So why is a drug that treats a common parasite so expensive? Even patients who have health insurance will still need to pay 20 percent of the drug’s cost, making Daraprim an unbelievable $150 per pill.
“We have corrected all known outstanding access issues, and regardless of the type of insurance a patient has, they should be able to have their prescriptions filled quickly,” stated Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, in a company press release. This is good news, right? Yes, the drug is very available according to Turing, but it still doesn’t explain why it costs $750 a pill. Shouldn’t increased availability make it cheaper?
In 2013, brand-name medication saw a 13 percent increase, according to data compiled by the Prime Institute at the University of Minnesota and AARP Public Policy Institute. For instance, if you need a brand-name cancer drug, you will pay in excess of 100,000 dollars per year, and a 12-week drug treatment for hepatitis will cost you over 80,000 dollars. “Every week, I’m learning about another drug that has increased in price because of a change in marketing or the distributor,” said Judith Aberg.
We are often at the mercy of drug companies when we are at our most vulnerable in life. Those who are not suffering from a chronic disease may not think about the increasing cost of medication. However, with diseases on the rise, notice should be taken. Interestingly enough, you may already have a toxoplasmosis parasite at this very moment, and if you get an immune weakening disease, well, you can do the math.
There are several alternative treatments for toxoplasmosis, but none are 100-percent proven. Natural plant oils, like coconut oil, garlic oil, goldenseal, horsetail oil and Oregon grape root have all been used as natural remedies for toxoplasmosis, although no medical research has confirmed any results.
One beneficial preventative treatment is eating a healthy diet consisting of leafy greens, fruits, veggies, and oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nature usually has something up her sleeve for any ailment, and healing normally begins with an improvement to our sustenance choices. Staying physically and mentally healthy will decrease your chances of having to pay overpriced pharmaceuticals later in life.
What do you think should be done to stop the rise in medication costs?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.