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Medical Ethics: Where High Drug Prices are Leading Us
Chuck Gallagher -- The Business Ethics Expert - Keynote Speaker Chuck Gallagher -- The Business Ethics Expert - Keynote Speaker
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Greenville, SC
Friday, September 9, 2016

Not long ago, I was walking along a city street on my way to delivering a keynote speech. It was chilly, but not uncomfortably so, though a rain had fallen. I saw a man, obviously homeless, standing outside of a large pet shop. He was eating something from a can using a soup spoon. My worst fears were confirmed as I passed him; it was cat food.  The scene was sad, but it goes much further than cat food.  The question is where are high drug prices and the cost of medical care leading us?
High Drug PricesThe sight moved me and I slipped him a few dollars. He didn’t ask for it, he wasn’t begging, but I could not help myself.
Lately, I have written about the high price of EpiPens, high drug prices and the unethical price gouging of that item by a pharmaceutical company. I spoke too soon in a sense, for I have come to realize how many people are not only suffering from diseases but from the ridiculousness of drug prices. Here is where the pet food image I mentioned above, combines with drug prices.
In a recent study compiled by the scientific publication, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy it was found that not only do 25 percent of Americans take non-prescribed antibiotics, they are sharing the antibiotics that were prescribed for their dogs and cats.  Is this where we’re going with high drug prices?
It is not only the stealing of non-prescribed antibiotics from pets, but getting them from relatives, hoarding them from prior illnesses (usually long after expiration), cutting dosages in half and bringing them in from other countries where they were cheaper. Here’s another fact that has been revealed: there are some pharmacies who make, shall we say, “arrangements” with select clients to sell them antibiotics under the counter.
The medical publication stated that people who are taking their pets antibiotics was not even one of the anticipated answers on the survey. They were surprised. My response: why?

High Drug Prices and the cost of health

The veterinary community is now encouraging its community to have greater awareness of pet owners taking antibiotics that were prescribed for their pets. They are suggesting, apparently not mandating, that unlimited refills should not be available for any veterinary medication.
Though the veterinary and the medical communities are constantly cautioning people that humans metabolize drugs differently than their dogs, many are not fazed by the warnings. Similar warnings have already been broadcast to Americans who cross the border into Canada to score their prescriptions as though somehow, Canadians possess a metabolism far different than the American patient.
No, it is the same metabolism, just a very different system of pricing and coverage. That is the ethical issue that needs addressing.
The droves of pharmaceutical sales reps spending hundreds of millions of dollars on physicians and veterinarians don’t get it, nor do the professionals they see, nor the insurance carriers – and sadly, not our elected officials. People are hurting financially as well as physically and psychologically.
The high cost of antibiotics produced from much lower cost ingredients and those who write the prescriptions and those who insure the patients have done a wonderful job of removing the topic of ethics from the prices of prescription medications.
When were we going to come around to adding the topic of ethics into the landscape?
I am not at all surprised that some individuals, desperate for treatment are using medications intended for their pets. The real question is when will physicians, insurers and our government show a modicum of ethical empathy?
By most accounts – and this is not a political statement, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is failing; at least failing to hold down costs. Big Pharma, also by reasonable accounts is nonplussed when it comes to the need for sane pricing. Physicians all too often prescribe whatever the drug reps throw at them. The losers are the people who steal drugs from their pets.  This is the outcome of high drug prices…
The cost of health can’t be measured in dollars and cents alone, but in lives. To ignore that cost is unethical. To ignore “the conversation” is unconscionable.
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