Big Pharma has become infamous for its disinterest in affordable drugs. It wants to develop only the high end, expensive drugs it can charge an arm and a leg for, and then complain bitterly about the "abusive medical costs" brought about, no doubt, by excessive govt regulation. They want to tell us they "can't help it", that developing drugs is time-consuming and expensive and they have to charge high prices to stay in business.
We know that's almost never true, at least not to the degree that they claim it, but a drug company called Genentech is allowing us a little peek into how Big Pharma thinks, and guess what? It's all about the $$$$.
What does a company do when there's anecdotal evidence that two of its drugs are equally effective in treating a leading cause of blindness in the elderly, one costing patients $60 per treatment and the other $2,000?
In the case of Genentech Inc., nothing.
The company declined to seek federal approval for the cheaper drug, Avastin, to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. Nor would it help finance — or cooperate with — a National Eye Institute study comparing the effectiveness and safety of Avastin, a cancer drug, and the more expensive eye drug, Lucentis.
The financial stakes stemming from the study are huge. Medicare officials estimate there could be 50,000 or more additional cases of macular degeneration a year. Treating just one year's worth of new patients with Lucentis would cost $1.2 billion a year, compared with $60 million if they're treated with Avastin, Medicare officials said.
So they just dropped the Avastin. End of story. I mean, $60mil v $1.2 BIL? What would you expect them to do? Naturally they're explaining that the money has nothing to do with it, they're only dropping Avastin because it's more dangerous.
The company has raised concerns that safety issues were not properly addressed. In particular, the trial doesn't have enough patients to show some of the rare but serious side effects that could occur with use of the cheaper drug, the company contends.
"No matter the outcome, we continue to believe Lucentis is the most appropriate treatment for wet AMD," said Krysta Pellegrino, a company spokeswoman.
Ophthalmologists who've used Avastin disagree.
Many eye doctors believe Avastin works just as well in treating macular degeneration even though it hasn't been approved for that purpose. It's not unusual for drugs to be used off-label — treating diseases other than ones the drug was approved for.
And even though health professionals begged for Avastin to be tested, Genentech isn't interested.
Dr. Philip Rosenfeld, who has treated hundreds of his eye patients in South Florida with Avastin, said Genentech had little economic incentive to help finance the trial — unless it was confident Lucentis was truly superior.
"By fact that they didn't support the clinical study leads me to conclude that in reality there is no difference between the two drugs," Rosenfeld said. "The result is clearly not in Genentech's best interest."
So they will simply withhold it.
All those of you who believe the high cost of medicine in the US is some sort of force of nature that can't be resisted, listen and learn: it has been deliberately engineered to be high-profit expensive by drug companies and for-profit HMO's who promised their investors - and themselves - $$$millions$$$. This is how they deliver on that promise. There's nothing mysterious or otherworldly about it.
It's called "GREED".