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Pharma Isn’t Greedy, Insurance Companies Are

Several years ago when I was diagnosed with hepatitis C  the best treatment available was a 48-week course of injections that sometimes caused suicidal thoughts and had a very low success rate. With my history of depression, my doctor determined I was not a good candidate for that treatment.  I’m glad I waited as new antivirals were in the pipeline,  one pill a day with up to 99% cure rates, and little side effects.

Access to Care and Cures

Speaking from experience, I know how difficult getting life-saving medicine can be. My husband, James, and I have always been self-employed so insurance, healthcare, and medicine have been hard to come by. I have been sick and turned down for health care. I have appealed and been denied medicine to relieve my suffering. It wasn’t just me who suffered, my family, husband and his business suffered. Illness affects entire communities.  I understand the fear of dying and the horror of unbearable pain. I also understand the excitement and hope that a new cure can bring.

Pharmaceutical companies gain funding through money made from their drugs.  I understand how hard it is to see past our own suffering, to consider others,  but I think we need to consider those who still wait for a cure and the fact that money is the only thing that will bring that cure to reality. It’s money that will promote research, development,  innovation, cures, and treatments. If pharmaceutical companies weren’t so lucrative I would likely be yellow and on my way to an early death. It’s money that propelled those drugs through the pipeline.

I know it’s a shame that we aren’t all motivated by kindness and philanthropy but the truth is that money makes for good medicine. I don’t want my medicine being developed in Africa or India. America continually pumps out the best, safest, most effective medicines year after year. It’s because of money.  What is often called greed may actually be the very thing saving us hepatitis C patients from turning yellow and dying a slow painful death.

Insurance Denials are Disheartening

I know pharma gets a lot of flack, but in my experience, it’s insurance companies that have found ways to avoid paying for drugs,  often rationing hepatitis C medicine to certain groups of people. This kind of discrimination is unethical and illegal. I recently heard from a friend who has been denied treatment for the 4th time. She isn’t sick enough. Another friend has been denied medicine because she is a recovering addict. These medicines should be dispensed every time they are prescribed, in a timely manner.

Specialty medicines, like the ones being offered for hepatitis C, offer rare hope and improved quality of life for many Americans. I’m thankful for the time, and money that went into making my cure. I understand that it is money that will incentivize the next cure.

After being repeatedly turned down by insurance companies, I applied to Gilead’s Patient Assistance Program and received my drugs for free within two weeks. After three months of pills, I was cured. But for thousands of others, action needs to be taken. Insurers should not be allowed, for any reason, to deny patients access to medicine.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.