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Are Drug Companies Charging Too Much?

In recent days, much has been made of the case concerning 26 year-old Lucas Maciesza, the young man suffering from a rare and fatal blood disorder who is unable to obtain the Canadian drug Soliris, because being able to afford the drug is beyond him and his family’s reach. While the hospital has since stepped in to pay for at least his first few months of the Canada drug, the government has been pilloried for dragging its feet for so long on the issue. But should the pharmaceutical company making the Canadian drug be the one under fire for the prohibitive amount it is charging for its life saving product?

“If I was in government and has absolute control, I would tell the drug companies that they had to show me the figures to justify the cost,” notes York University professor of health policy, Joel Lexchin. “They’re entitled to a reasonable return, but I certainly wouldn’t start paying that kind of money without seeing some reason why it’s so expensive.”

The “kind of money” Lexchin is referring to is an extraordinary cost of half a million dollars annually to keep just one patient on the Canada drug. John Haslam, the general manager of Alexiom Pharma Canada, the company that produces Soliris, predictably believes the costs are justified. “Because of the large costs and extensive risks of developing drugs for patients with ultra rare disease, reimbursement levels need to be commensurately higher,” he says. He’s not the only who thinks so, though, with Barry Katsof, a patient who will need the drug every year for the rest of his life, very much in agreement with him. “The drug company has done their job,” he comments. “Now it’s up to the government to step up to the plate to do their job.”
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