For this project, I really wanted to focus on highlighting the widespread issue of drug pricing in America. Currently, Americans pay a higher price for drugs than any other country in the world. This is due to drug companies abruptly raising the price of essential drugs without government consequences. The price hikes go unregulated because of legislators that receive funding from drug lobbying groups commonly known as “Big PhRMA.” Additionally, divides between political parties serve as obstacles in the path to progress to equal access.
Why is it controversial?
Much of the controversy surrounding the unregulated prices on drugs are based on the debate, whether drugs should be viewed as a commodity for profit or a universal necessity. Robert Pearl, a former health care CEO and professor at Stanford, wrote an article in Forbes comparing the price value on luxury handbags and life-saving drugs. The article reveals many drug companies attempt to justify their pricing by claiming it is going to regulation and development (R&D). When statistics prove there has been in no significant breakthroughs that would justify these price hikes. He also urges:
“We need common-sense pricing laws that recognize there is a difference between life-saving drugs and luxury handbags.”https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2018/09/24/nostrum/#5cffbb734fb1
Another ethical questions that is raised in this case is, Should wealth be a determining factor for who has access to life essential drugs?
America has suffered a long history of wealth discrimination however,it is important to consider the production of these drugs is costly and it is not feasible to expect drug companies to distribute them at no cost. However, these price hikes are unjustifiable. There are significant disparities in the profit margins and progress in R&D. It is unethical for drug companies to raise prices on medications that millions of people are dependent on daily. We have witnessed the catastrophic affects the prices have had through the death of so many. In a country where we claim to promote equality of all people we are failing to protect the health of so many solely based on wealth.
Why is it important?
The Principle of Autonomy: High drug prices on medications that are essential for many patients infringe upon the ability to pursue a healthy life for many Americans. Drug companies prioritizing profit over the lives of so many limits the options for working class and struggling families. There continue to be countless stories of people struggling to afford their prescribed dosages of life essential medicine and dying because of it. According to the Bioethical Principle of Autonomy, we should make decisions that allow people the right to make their own decisions. By neglecting the corruption of high drug company profits, people’s right to live is under attack based on their economic status.
The Principles of Beneficence & Nonmaleficence: As previously mentioned, the high prices of drugs that people are dependent on affects the livelihood of countless people. The Bioethical principles of Beneficence and Nonmaleficence, support decisions that help and lessen harm to the most amount of people. Unregulated pricing harms the majority of non-upper class patients suffering from illnesses that require these drugs. The fact that immoral prices lead people to devalue their own health by not taking their prescribed dosages and, instead, profits large corporations. Many drug companies claim their price is due to the money needed for research and development (R&D) but the majority of these show significant disparities in profit margins. The immorality in the pricing is not justifiable as the profits are not invested into research and development of cheaper or more effective alternatives, but simply, for personal gains.
The Principle of Justice: The Bioethical Principle of Justice states we should support decisions that provide people equal access to cures. Their is no doubt that drugs should cost money, this is necessary to further R&D, profit companies, and maintain the economy. However, the recent skyrocketing prices have made essential drugs inaccessible and has led to many deaths. When patients that live off of insulin begin to skip their dosage because of the high prices it is evident there is an obstacle in the path of the cure.
“According to one recent survey, 45% of patients with diabetes have skipped doses of insulin because they can’t afford the going rate. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of insulin jumped from about $40 a vial to $130.”https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2018/09/24/nostrum/#60a8fb5f4fb1
Recently, many drug companies have drastically raised prices for life-essential drugs. The infographic below shows some of the major companies.
What Can YOU Do?
Do your research and vote for elected officials that:
- a) are not supported by drug lobbying groups and support
- b) support legislation that requires transparency and accountability for drug companies hiking their prices
#2: Reach out to your community
- Find community members that are in need of aid and help support them
- raise awareness by participating in marches, protests, and other events that support drug pricing awareness
#3: Educate yourself
- Keep yourself updated with news on progress
- To gain some more insight I reached out to a mom, activist, and leader of a local juvenile diabetes support group. This interview is a great way to gain a deeper understanding: