Imagine walking around with an oxygen tank necessary for your survival, but every vial of oxygen costs $340. For many people with chronic diseases, the medicines and therapies that help them live longer pose threats to them financially, and they must often choose their health over their financial security, a decision that no one should have to make.
According to CBS News, drug prices have risen an average of 10.5% in the first six months of 2019. That is five times the current rate of inflation. The most mind-numbing aspect of this price raise is that the drugs affected are generic and aren’t patented. But drug companies have strong control over the drug market, so they are able to keep prices high in order to make the most profit possible. According to the Netflix series Unnatural Selection, drugs such as gene therapies can easily be produced at a very low cost, but they are marketed for tens of thousands of dollars.
The show explains that in the past, medicine was not nearly as expensive. The polio vaccine was created in the early 20th century and marketed for only 25 cents ($2.40 in today’s money) in order to eradicate one of the most crippling diseases in the world. Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine, believed that it was necessary for everyone to be free from this disease, so he didn’t market for profit. Similarly, the first insulin shots were sold for only a dollar per injection. Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin, refused to patent it because he believed that it would be unethical for a doctor to profit from a medication that was a necessity for so many people.
According to the Washington Post, drug companies claim that they hike up drug prices to “help fund research to create better cures,” but critics state that the government should be paying for research, not patients. Today, much of the public believes that drug companies only care about themselves and not about the long-term effects that high drug prices can have on the lives of chronic disease patients. We can only hope that drug prices will be capped off by the government in order to stop the selfish tendencies of drug companies.