Drugs, Choice, and the “Free Market”

I went to see my allergist yesterday. One of the treatments she prescribed was Dymista. It is a nasal spray containing an antihistamine (Astelin) and a corticosteroid (Fluticasone). I have been using these separately with some success but the combination simplifies their use. She gave me a couple of samples that will last me 2 to 3 weeks. She mentioned that my insurance might not pay for it. However, since I generally buy my own medication I was not too concerned about insurance. That is until I looked up the price from the wholesaler that I use and found that Dymista is $175 for 30 doses. If used twice a day, like she prescribed, that is a little over two weeks of medication.

I am all for modern medicine and I think many of the drugs we take have improved health and prolonged life but I for one think Big Pharma has taken advantage of us. And the government has been impotent in curbing their rampant greed.

If you bought Dymista at Walmart, which is the cheapest price I found on GoodRx.com, it would cost $188. Its ingredients Astelin ($30) and Fluticasone($15) cost about $45 for the same amount.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals is charging four times as much to combine the two drugs into one formulation. It is much like charging $3 dollars for a cup of coffee and a dollar for cream and then charging $17 for coffee with cream.

This is an example of the “free market” that conservatives think solve all economic ills. If regulators would get out of the way and just let the market decide we would all be better off.

What never seems to come up is why regulations are necessary in the first place. The term “government overreach” is a favorite term of conservatives but what they fail to understand and acknowledge is that the overreach began with players in the market, pushing the legal and moral limits for power and profit. Regulations are a reaction to wrongdoing in the marketplace to try to serve the “common good.”

Until we as a society decide that pharmaceutical price gouging cannot be tolerated the Mylan Pharmaceutical’ s of the world will continue to manipulate and take advantage of consumers for their bottom line benefit.

In a review of William Cavanaugh’s book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, Alex Abecina says, “Cavanaugh contends that the so-called ‘free-market’, having been detached from objectively good ends, actually leaves consumers vulnerable to economic enslavement under an advertising saturated society, controlled and surveyed by a small handful of transnational corporations. This small but powerful sector possesses the research and marketing ‘know-how’ to produce artificially created consumer desires that are capable of dictating our choices for us.”

Freedom in a “free market” involves freedom to make informed choices, taking into account ethical concerns of fairness and the common good. Absent those parameters the “free market” is just about greed.

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Retired physician, author, and nonprofit worker in Africa

4 thoughts on “Drugs, Choice, and the “Free Market””

  1. David-

    To quote your great blog: “…. Big Pharma has taken advantage of us. And the government has been impotent in curbing their rampant greed.”

    The GOP, not our government, has long been the enabler of pharmaceutical greed as they love the political contributions.

    Here is another great example: The current “secret” GOP tax plan that lowers taxes on the rich somehow needs to be funded. One of those secrets is lowering the annual IRA, 401(k) and SEP contribution limits from $24K – 40K depending on one’s plan and employment status (self-employed vs being an employee) to an annual max of $2,400. Yes, you are reading that correctly.

    I could never – NEVER – have retired had this enslaving tax provision been in place. Every year for 16 years I contributed the maximum to my SEP (Self Employment) IRA, which was generally limited to $24K annually.

    The GOP is bought and paid for by among others, Bug Pharma.

    Peace & love brother, and FUCK the GOP right up their sorry assholes-

    Rev. Michael

    Sent from my iPad Michael Sparkman, CPA Author/retired CPA & UCC Minister Santa Fe, NM



  2. A scandal, but next to nothing compared to the Purdue Pharma (members of the Sackler family) marketing of opioids. See the recent article in the New Yorker magazine and the recent 60 Minutes show on the pharma industry’s success in stopping enforcement against the current opioid plague.

    No wonder the Sacklers have so much money for philanthropy!


    1. What the Republicans did in this case was SCANDALOUS. Of course almost everything they are trying to do these days is scandalous.


  3. The government has not just been impotent. How about “Complicit”? The lawmakers love and depend on those big dollar donations that Big Pharma makes. I just wonder: Do any of them remember that they are elected to work for us?


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