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Pills and Money

There are a number of stories here and in Health Attitude about the high cost of drugs. Most stories are about pills, but the problem exists for ear drops, eye drops, injectables, ointments, gels, creams, and other forms. I have cataract surgery coming up and eye drops were prescribed for me. (btw, we all have cataracts. It is just a matter of whether they cloud our vision enough to require the surgery. For some it happens at 50 and for others at 80). Three eye drops are required: a steroid, an anti-inflammatory, and an antibiotic. The amount of liquid was 2.5 ml, 3 ml, and 5 ml. The 10.5 ml cost $505.97. My AARP Rx insurance paid $345.93 and I paid $160.04.

It goes without saying the cost of the eye drops is very high. With the help of a spreadsheet, I tried to put the cost in perspective. The 10.5 ml converts to .35550472 of an ounce. The cost of one once of the eyedrops would be $1,425.08. A very nice single malt scotch such as  Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Years Old cost $149. The 750 ml bottle cost is $5.88 per ounce. An outstanding cabernet such as  Opus One 2012 costs $289.99, which comes out to $11.43 per ounce. The eye drops are 125 times more expensive than a $290 bottle of fine wine. I would never think of buying such an expensive wine, but I had no choice with the eye drops.

The AARP Rx plan is  insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. When Medicare Part D became available to seniors in 2006, Congress included a provision in the legislation which prohibits Medicare from negotiating the cost of the drugs they purchase. The pharmaceutical industry sets the prices and Medicare pays. Simply eliminating that unfair (to taxpayers) provision would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Read more about Big Pharma and drug pricing in Health Attitude.

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