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Examiner
  • Jerry Plantz: The high price of getting well

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  • A recent article by Kim Peterson on CBSnews.com triggered a touch of anger within me. She reported that Sovaldi, a new hepatitis C treatment, can cure up to 90 percent of patients within three months. However, it costs patients $1,000 a day.
    This story struck home because of my brother-in-law, who has been fighting hepatitis C ever since he got a bad blood transfusion following an industrial accident in 1983 but did not find out about it until the early ‘90s
    In the ensuing years Mike Tulenko has taken every type of medicine to combat the disease, which can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Over the years he has tried various types of promising treatments, including interferon and ribavirin, but to no avail.
    Then, from the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences, came another hepatitis C challenger named Incivek, discribed as an antiviral medication that prevents certain virus cells from multiplying. Incivek is used in combination with peginterferon alfa (Pegasys, PegIntron) and ribavirin (Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere, RibaTab).
    Thankfully, after two years of perseverance and strict adherence to Incivek treatment, often with painful side-effects, Mike’s last three test results have come back negative. Doctors believe he is 99 percent cured.
    The drug was also expensive, but thanks to some non-profit companies, who provided him with grants coupled with his health insurance policy, Mike was able to afford the treatment and survive the life-threatening ordeal.
    The high cost of drugs is defended by the drug companies, citing expensive and lengthy research.
    Gilead Sciences defends its cost stating “Overall Sovaldi is cheaper because it cures patients quickly and eliminates a long and expensive treatment using other drugs.”
    Gilead bases its prices on a country’s per-capita income, indicating Britain pays about $57,00 a year, Germans $66,000 and Americans $84,000 for a full course of treatment.
    Other disease-modifying drugs include Kalydeco, a drug to fight cystic fibrosis. It costs $294,000 a year.
    There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and 400,000 American MS patients have some 10 drugs to choose from to stop relapses at cost of $62,000 a year.
    Fortunately, many inexpensive generic drugs such as lipitor, actos, plavix and singulair are available including baby aspirin used to fight heart disease.
    As for Mike, he is enjoying life again and he is an inspiration to our entire family.
    I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
    Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at jerryplantz@msn.com.

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