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« Editorial - Getting Ejected At Zeldin Kick-Off | Main | Op Ed- Congressman Zeldin Lowering Cost Of Prescription Drugs »

Op Ed- Zeldin's Op Ed On Prescription Drug Cost Is Wrong

By Perry Gershon

The United States is home to some of the world’s best pharmaceutical research and doctors; nevertheless, the world’s richest and most powerful country has worse medical outcomes and higher drug costs than the rest of the developed world. The United States should be a leader in affordable health care, not drug addiction. Something is deeply wrong when American patients scream in anguish over the ever-rising cost of prescription drugs. When our patients are forced to take only half the prescribed number of pills for an ailment because they can’t afford their medication, and when they suffer from higher and higher rates of drug abuse, we need to act to cure our broken prescription drug system and we need to act now!

I come from a medical family. My mother was a lead researcher in the development of the chickenpox vaccine, which improved the quality of life for millions of Americans. My father has done ground-breaking research discovering how the nervous system of the gut (“the second brain”) controls the behavior of the bowel. My mother’s dad was a Colonel in the US Army Medical Corps who participated in the liberation of Dachau. I grew up around practitioners and doctors who would do anything for their patients. Trust me when I say that even though the Affordable Care Act was a great first step, it is not enough. America needs Medicare for All to improve the American healthcare delivery system and curb the excessive costs of prescription drugs once and for all.

Republicans like Lee Zeldin want you to believe that buying prescription drugs could be like buying a shirt or a television set. The problem with this simplistic analogy is that while consumers of shirts or television sets have a choice, sick patients do not. One can skip the purchase of another shirt or television set, shop around for a discount, or bargain with the seller. Sick patients have none of the options; they need medical care and they often need it immediately. One can get another opinion, but one cannot ask people to search for the cheapest brain surgeon. Sick patients are free neither to choose their care nor to skip it. Delays in treatment and avoidance of preventive care lead to higher costs in the end. These delays are a major reason that that American healthcare costs so much in aggregate. Too many people defer preventative healthcare and resort to emergency rooms (where costs are multiplied) for treatment when they are in extremis. The alternative is not a cheap neurosurgeon or a discounted heart valve, but pain and suffering, or even death. This lack of effective choice opens the door for exploitation, providing an opportunity for people like Martin Shkreli to gouge patients for life-saving HIV treatments for HIV. It makes it possible for unscrupulous companies like NextSource to raise the price of its life-extending cancer drug Lomustine by 1400%. Pharmaceutical companies charge this much because they can. They know, unlike other businesses, that their customers are at their mercy, and fundamentally cannot say no.

The misleading assertion that deregulation of pharmaceutical companies will not lead to price-gouging uses the same logic that led to the assertion that deregulation of banks would not lead to fraud and speculation. Theft is controlled by law and regulation, not by asserting that thieves will not steal if only they could be deregulated. It is not only wrong—it is an example of how willfully complicit Republicans are in corporations putting profits above people. Corporations exist to maximize profit. Patients, who have no ability to shop around for medical care, are required to pay what private corporations charge and, as a result, are typically overcharged for health care. Deregulation cannot change behavior. It is inherent in the business model. 

Medicare for All is the best way to correct this imbalance and to ensure that patients get a fair price on their prescriptions. In his Op-Ed, Lee Zeldin claims that “doctors, often small practitioners who lack the market power to bargain effectively,” enable pharmaceutical companies to overcharge. Zeldin implies that the government leaves the negotiating to people without marketing power because the government is incompetent, negligent or mean. In fact, the Republicans pushed through a prohibition that forbids the Government from using its great purchasing power to negotiate favorable drug prices. This Republican-passed prohibition accounts for why drugs are cheaper in Canada than in the USA. Zeldin destroys his own argument. He illustrates the importance of governmental action. Reducing regulations has not and will not lower costs; it may make drugs less safe, but not less expensive. I can think of no better argument for Medicare for All. Medicare for All will allow patients to maximize their market power and enable all 325 million Americans to bargain collectively to get the best prices for their prescription drugs. Medicare for All will ensure that pharmaceutical companies are no longer able to exploit their customers. We must act now, before even the most basic prescriptions are out of reach of all but the wealthiest Americans. 

Perry Gershon is a businessman and entrepreneur who is running for elected office to represent the people residing in New York’s First Congressional District. Mr. Gershon is a candidate in a Democratic primary on June 26.


Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for understanding that not all on wealthy Long Island can afford their medications. I have elderly family members who cannot afford to buy their medications and as an elder law attorney have struggled to find ways to help my family members, clients and others I meet in my daily life try to find ways to obtain their prescriptions and sometimes I just have to find a generous person to pay for them. This problem is not limited to the elderly and I have worked with many younger disabled people facing the same struggle. This should not be the case in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Fri, June 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterElaine Turley

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