Tuesday, 22 September 2015

This is one of the many reasons why I'm glad we have the NHS

I remember being in the USA when the Obamacare debates all kicked off.  I remember listening aghast as some commentator on some show made the outrageous and completely incorrect statement that if the USA was to go with Obamacare then a UK NHS style system would surely follow.  He then stated that women were giving birth on the sidewalks because the UK system was in such a mess.  Lies.  I can't argue our NHS needs improvements, more funding etc. but it sure ain't like that.

Today though this story has been getting a lot of airplay on newsites etc.  To quickly summarise.  A USA pharamaceutical company with the rights to a drug originally discovered by Burroughs Wellcome which became eventually part of the now GSK empire was recently taken over but a new company led by an ex hedge fund manager.  The drug is used to treat HIV patients (and others) and is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as one it's "essential medicines".  The new company saw a market to exploit and have restricted access to the routes to buy the drug in the USA and raised the price from $13.50 to $750.00 - a 5000% rise.  

Now why am I glad we have the NHS in the UK then?  Because we have that state monopoly (with very few exceptions) the price for any drug is firstly not born by the patient we all pay our contribution at a fixed £8.20 an item no matter of the actual cost, assuming you aren't on one of the many exceptions that means you don't pay at all or you pay the annual one off charge if you are a person who needs a lot of repeat prescriptions.  Also in Wales prescriptions are free - yes USA friends you did read that right - you get to see your doctor for free and the drugs he prescribes for free too if you live in the dragon country. 

Secondly - I've just checked on the British National Formulary (BNF); which is the list of all drugs that can be prescribed within the NHS system - this is the thing that determines essentially if a drug is available at all really in the UK as there is little point being approved if you aren't on the BNF as no NHS doctor can prescribe that drug.  And the vast majority of prescriptions are obviously within the NHS system.  So then Daraprim (the drug in question) is quoted on there as being currently £13.00 for a 30 tab pack.  That is what the agreed price is between the government and the manufacturer in the UK... so ... they can't hike the price up as the govt essentially fix the market. 

Lastly - given that this is an old drug there is no patent outstanding on it - I'm assuming that anyway.  So ... calling all Indian/Chinese entrepreneurs - you have a perfect opportunity here.  Quickly figure out how to produce this drug and even if you are above the $1 a dose it is claimed it costs the current manufacture as long as you can get it to the USA and all approved etc. as long as you can substantially undercut this $750 you'll surely clean up...   Isn't that how an open market should operate?   I'd rather it was wasn't profiting so much and gambling with people's health.


  1. There are times when I am truly embarrassed to be an American.