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On the Cost of the New Wonder Drugs
from M.A.N.

Well Ed, as you know by now Amevive was approved for use by the FDA. According to what I have read tonight it will be acceptable for the Derms to order it for their office delivery or to a pharmacy according to their patients’ insurance dictums on Monday (02-03-03). Now the big quandary is do we seek out this new biologic or wait for Raptiva?  It sure is nice to have Enbrel, Amevive, and possibly Raptiva to worry about. My greatest concern is that there are far too many of us who can not afford any of these options.

I may be very mistaken, but I consider the U.S.A. to be one of the wealthiest nations on the planet — if not the wealthiest. We have seniors who can not afford life sustaining drugs and people like us in that same boat.

I could go on about drug company compensations (yes, I do understand R&D) but I'm not going to convince anyone that we need to tweak our system. All of this insurance rhetoric comes from me — the wife of a former Insurance Company President, CFO, Casualty Actuary, Senior VP of a major insurance company and an insurance agent. So I know from whence I speak.

I will be able to make my choices but, what about the rest of us? I don't expect you to have the answers. I just get exasperated and need to vent. Thanks for listening.   -M.A.N.

*****

Ed’s Response:  I, too, am concerned about the high cost of these new drugs.  I was unable to find any pricing for Amevive and am still unsure how most people will take it.  What I’ve read says it requires (initially) a 12 week course of one dose per week, administered intravenously (IV) or through intramuscular injection.  Some people may get the IM injections at home, but most will probably go to the doctor for their shots or infusions.  This can’t be cheap.  In addition to the drug, you’ll pay something for the office visit. 

Enbrel — another biologic approved last year — costs about $150 a dose, which is self-administered through a subcutaneous injection, two doses a week for the duration of the therapy (no max duration, as far as I know).

So far, I’ve received mostly glowing reports from other Enbrel users regarding co-operation from their insurers.  Some, like me, had to go a few rounds, but no one who’s written in has reported being denied coverage for Enbrel.  We can only hope it goes so well for Amevive.

As you probably know, some kind of improved prescription availability program is under “discussion” in Washington, D.C.  President Bush has mentioned it in several contexts.  We flakers are, relatively speaking, a small contingent in the overall problem of health care disparities, but surely the new availability of these high-priced drugs for our chronic condition can only serve to underscore the difference between the haves and have nots within our contingent. 

Like you, Jordan, my voice doesn’t count for much in this milieu, either.  Thanks for giving me an opportunity to vent alongside you.  -Ed

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