Thankfully, the cost of drugs is rarely an issue for British people who need what would otherwise be a costly treatment. This is because we have the National Health Service which is the envy of many countries around the world and something we should be proud of.
Sufferer's of rare diseases, such as Wegener's, in other countries are not so fortunate. The USA is one of them, and I was reminded of that fact when reading a news article about an ongoing legal battle between Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the US federal government.
Last October the government, through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), ruled that pharmaceutical companies must reduce the cost of their drugs by up to 50% if the hospital they are used in serves a poor population.
In May of this year PhRMA successfully sued the government so that the rule could no longer be enforced. However, the matter is now back in the courts once again.
Rituxan, known as Rituximab here in the UK, is one of the drugs that is in the middle of the dispute (this was the drug that saved Alicia's life). That's because it was initially used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis but has found to be effective when treating other 'orphan' conditions, such as Wegener's Granulomatosis. The rule only allows for hospitals to obtain the drug at a discount when treating the non-orphan conditions.
I personally hope that the HRSA wins the latest legal battle so that there is at least the possibility that sufferers of rare diseases in deprived areas will have access to the best drugs possible. The alternative is that the hospitals can't afford them and the costs are passed on to the patient.
Having to worry about money when you are already stressed about your health is an unnecessary extra burden.
You can read more about the story here on Fierce Pharma.
Image from Images_of_Money on Flickr.