Thursday, January 18, 2007

The reason your grandmother cannot afford her heart medication.

I confess: Last night, I was unable to pass up dinner at Onotria...paid for by Genentech.

There were numerous reasons to attend:

1) Free wine country cuisine
2) An update on the treatment of NSCLC (not exactly my area of expertise), featuring Avastin and Tarceva
3) Something to do on Rainbow Night

I had sworn off big Pharma dinners for the last year, or so. Not for any moral or idealogical reasons, mostly because the lectures are usually boring (and no longer seem to be worth any continuing education). Also, as I remembered last night: no matter how nice the restaurant is, if you are dining with a party of 40, it will taste like the food at your cousin's wedding.

What I had not expected over dinner: Scolding from the oncologist sitting across from me. I think ICE oversold our job a little, causing him to think we're making life and death decisions about his patients. "Someone's got to do it", I replied, smiling. He was a little hard to understand, and after arguing with ICE all day, I really had no fight left in me.

In retrospect, "Someone's got to do it" was not that bad a response. In pretty much every country other than ours, the government 1) sets prices, and 2) decides which drugs they will pay for. I am not suggesting that either is a good idea, but someone has to do it. In this country, we rely on private industry to be the bad guy. Why is this necessary? Because a 30 day supply of Tarceva costs pretty close to $3000. Not bad to extend your life for two months, you say. Maybe not, but you have to take it for 10 months ($30,000) to see that benefit. And that's just Tarceva, I cannot even calculate how much the Avastin would cost for those extra two months.

Anyway, I guess I'll close with a joke. It's not a very funny joke, but it's sort of ironic, and sums up the American health system pretty well.

A famous surgeon presented his patient with a bill. The patient said, “I’m sorry but I cannot pay.”

The doctor then asked, "Can you pay half?” and the patient said, I’m sorry but I cannot pay that either.”

The doctor tried again. “How much can you pay?" ”Nothing" said the patient. The doctor was very upset and exclaimed, “If you couldn’t pay, then why did you choose me, the most renowned surgeon in the country to perform the operation. The patient answered, “ When it comes to my health, money is no object.”


Anonymous said...

You must be proud of your profession. Good for you.
I want to be a fasion designer. Too bad I can't draw.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I do not feel I was overstating our job. He had preconceived notions of insurance companies and formulary pharmacists and was a pompous face anyways. It was very strange for him to tell me how to do my job better. Anyways the food was horrible, I'm okay with not going to a CE again for Rainbow Night.

Michael Lasko said...

You're just mad because he asked if you were from China.

Anonymous said...

I hope no one ever calls me a pompous face.

Anonymous said...

Well I generally have 2 categories: nice and mean. This guys was generally nice but a pompous face. That's the only way I can describe him.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Let him die that way. Who cares.