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Opinion

Rush to Market Drugs Won't Matter

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For patients with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's diseases and their caring families, getting drugs to fight the debilitating diseases would be a blessing.

But the problem with speeding up the research-to-marke t process is that it won't matter. Neither Parkinson's nor Alzheimer's has effective treatments at this time.

And if a drug is being developed that might be effective, it won't come to market unless the pharmaceutical company can make a profit with it. Otherwise, it becomes an orphan drug-- one that remains commercially undeveloped because of limited potential for profitability.

And if there is an effective drug, chances are it's going to be expensive, thus keeping it off insurance company formularies and unavailable to patients. This occurs every day, in every primary care office, when meds for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol must get "prior authorization" by the patient's physician.

Even if doctors get a "prior authorization" for the patient to receive the drug, it could still be prohibitively expensive. And forget about a Medicare patient who's in the donut hole, although this could be eliminated in the future.

There will be two public roundtable discussions in the Tampa Bay area on Aug. 19 and 22, examining the steps a new drug takes from discovery to delivery. It will be at the Bethany Center in Lutz and is hosted by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.

The purpose of these 21st Center Cures roundtable discussion is to try and see what can be done to get drugs that treat severely debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s to market to benefit patients suffering these maladies.

But a recent article I read found a doctor having to "prior auth" generic digoxin, a drug derived from the digitalis plant, or foxglove, and first used to treat cardiac conditions over 200 years ago.

With the advent of newer cardiac meds, albeit, more expensive, digoxin has fallen into disfavor, thanks to the marketing of Big Pharma. Generic digoxin literally would cost the patient pennies a day, but with fewer companies making it (now only two). The price of the generic has skyrocketed into triple digits, thus necessitating the "prior authorization" by physicians.

We need to make medications more affordable for all diseases across the board. If a doctor feels a brand name is what is needed, then somehow, make it affordable.

Make the pharmaceutical companies negotiate with all the insurance companies to bring down the prices the patient must pay, even for a brand name rather than a generic. Aren’t a few prescriptions less expensive to pay for than a week in the hospital?

Make no mistake about it; you can have all the bipartisan roundtable discussions you want. We aren't going to change anything. Insurance companies and Big Pharma continue to rule medicine.

Dr. David Lubin recently retired after 37 years of family practice, but remains Editor of the Hillsborough County Medical Association's The Bullletin.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is holding the following roundtables:

Tuesday, August 19, 1:30 p.m., 

The Bethany Center, 18150 Bethany Center Drive, Lutz, FL 33558

and 

Friday, August 22, 1:30 p.m.

The Bethany Center, 18150 Bethany Center Drive, Lutz, FL 33558