"Diabetes experts say a good part of what companies label as innovation amounts to planned obsolescence." http://t.co/vY76C8AQSR
— JonathanCohn (@JonathanCohn) April 6, 2014
On the one hand, some medical advances even skeptics might call miracles. On the other… Show Us on the Doll Where the Invisible Hand Touched You. Elisabeth Rosenthal at the NYTimes:
Catherine Hayley is saving up for an important purchase: an updated version of the tiny digital pump at her waist that delivers lifesaving insulin under her skin.
Such devices, which tailor insulin dosing more precisely to the body’s needs, have transformed the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes like Ms. Hayley. But as diabetics live longer, healthier lives and worries fade about dreaded complications like heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations and blindness, they have been replaced by another preoccupation: soaring treatment costs…
A new model, along with related treatment supplies, prices out at tens of thousands of dollars for this year and will cost her about $5,000, even with top-notch insurance. “It’s great,” Ms. Hayley said, “but it all adds up.”…
That captive audience of Type 1 diabetics has spawned lines of high-priced gadgets and disposable accouterments, borrowing business models from technology companies like Apple: Each pump and monitor requires the separate purchase of an array of items that are often brand and model specific.
A steady stream of new models and updates often offer dubious improvement: colored pumps; talking, bilingual meters; sensors reporting minute-by-minute sugar readouts. Ms. Hayley’s new pump will cost $7,350 (she will pay $2,500 under the terms of her insurance). But she will also need to pay her part for supplies, including $100 monitor probes that must be replaced every week, disposable tubing that she must change every three days and 10 or so test strips every day.
That does not even include insulin, which has been produced with genetic engineering and protected by patents, so that a medicine that cost a few dollars when Ms. Hayley was a child now often sells for more than $200 a vial, meaning some patients must pay more than $4,000 a year. Other refinements have benefited a minority of patients but raised prices for all. There are no generics in the United States.
Companies that produce the treatments say the higher costs reflect medical advances and the need to recoup money spent on research. But David Kliff, a financial analyst who is editor of Diabetic Investor, an independent newsletter on the industry, points out: “Diabetes is not just a disease state; it’s a huge business, too.”…
In Mr. Kliff’s defense, he’s not just a businessman, he’s also a client — per the heading at DI, he’s a Type I diabetic patient himself.
By all means, read the whole article. The author also included two separate comment streams — Can you relate an experience when pharmaceutical marketing influenced your treatment? and Have you delayed treatment or made life decisions based on the cost of your chronic condition? If the Democrats want to make some “How the ACA helped me” ads, they could start right there.