Monday, May 16, 2016

Should Businessmen and Businesswomen Run Everything? (Including Schools?)

We often hear how much better K-12 education could be if only we would introduce business methods in the public schools. 

Whenever I hear that line, I imagine British Petroleum or Henry’s Turkey Service or Lehman Brothers making decisions about children. 

Or even Pearson, the giant test making juggernaut that keeps coming up with new tests after old tests prove useless. 

Or I like to imagine Pfizer and money-mad pharmaceutical companies bringing their methods to public education. 

Who thinks businessmen and businesswomen have a lock on good ideas, good intentions and good methods, anyway? Some of the biggest crooks in history have run businesses. In a recent study, for example, it turns out Medicare and private insurers are wasting almost $3 billion on cancer medicines that end up getting thrown away. And this is happening every year.

Or, as Big Pharma might say, “Hey, we make an extra $3 billion!”

According to cancer researchers, many manufacturers market drugs in vials that hold more medicine than patients need. Nurses inject the required dosage, then, due to safety concerns, throw the remainder away.

Could this problem be fixed? Of course it could.

The companies could market cancer drugs in vials of varying sizes. Nurses could pick the bottles containing appropriate dosages. In fact, if U. S. lawmakers allowed it, we could start ordering vials of the same chemicals from Europe—where, magically, such medicines are sold in vials of varying sizes.

In this country, Takeda Pharmaceuticals sells 3.5 milligram vials of Velcade, to treat melanoma and other forms of cancer. One vial goes for $1,034. Each contains enough to treat a 6' 6" male, weighing 250 pounds. 

By comparison, Lena Haddad, 53, an average-size woman, receives 1.8 milligrams weekly to treat her cancer. That means, if I did the math right, that $502 of Velcade is wasted weekly. Or: $26,104 annually.

For a single patient.

In England—where I might add, they have socialized medicine—you can buy vials of Velcade in 1 milligram bottles. So, I am thinking: Why not put Ms. Haddad on a plane and fly her off to London. She can see the Tower and watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and then bring back a few dozen bottles of Velcade. All of us who pay taxes, all of us who watch our insurance premium soar, will be better off. Plus, Ms. Haddad would enjoy a fun vacation.

Oh, wait: the hitch! The drug companies would see profits decline. Takeda, the study indicates, might easily offer Velcade in vials of three sizes, cutting waste by 84%. But Takeda would lose $261 million in annual sales.

“Drug companies,” says Dr. Peter B. Burch, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering, “are quietly making billions forcing little old ladies to buy enough medicine to treat football players, and regulators have completely missed it. If we’re ever going to start saving money in health care, this is an obvious place to cut.”

As it stands now, $1.8 billion worth of cancer medicines are thrown away every year in this country. Another $1 billion is wasted when doctors and hospitals mark up prices for these drugs they throw away.

Meanwhile, if you do get cancer, good luck. You’re going to need it—and Obamacare—or maybe wait until Republicans repeal Obamacare and you can sell your house. According to The New York Times, the last ten cancer drugs approved for use in this country have an “average annual price of $190,217.”

Big Pharma complains any time we accused them of gouging customers. “Oh, we need to spend all that money on research and development!” Yet Pfizer and Merck devote only 17% of revenues to developing new treatments and spend more on marketing expensive drugs they already sell. 

Also: lobbying Congress is expensive! The biggest lobbying organization for the drug companies spent $208 million in 2014, alone.

You know: buying lawmakers can be expensive.

Speaking of Merck, in February 2015, the company stopped selling vials of Keytruda, a drug to treat lung cancer, in 50 milligram bottles. Yes, it might be true: a 150-pound woman might need only 136 milligrams for treatment. But why offer three 50s when you can sell two 100 milligram bottles instead? And, Merck now has an even better idea—if only they can foist it off on the Food and Drug Administration. (Again: send in the lobbyists!) Why don’t regulators set a fixed dosage of 200 milligrams for patients? Then let Merck sell Keytruda only in 200 milligram bottles, enough to treat any jumbo-sized patient. That way, none of the drug will, technically, be wasted—even though doctors say there is no evidence the higher dosage would help most patients.

Then again, who cares about patients!

Merck is in business to make money! And in the next five years, even if the F.D.A. says no to the 200 milligram scam, it is estimated the company will collect $2.4 billion for Keytruda that gets thrown away.

P. S.: Teva Pharmaceuticals sells Treanda (used to treat leukemia) in four different vial sizes. In other words, it can be done.

Even in America.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't always a teacher. In fact, I didn't become a teacher until I was in my 30s. Before that, I worked in the private sector and most, but not all of my bosses, I wouldn't trust to mow my lawn. I could say the same thing for many of the public education administrators. It was my expericne that the higher the public administration or private sector management climbed, the more incompetent and corrupt they became.

    Lord Acton was right when he said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    The best defense against the corruption of power is a balance of power in a Constitutional democratic republic where all of the registered voters have a voice and in private sector corporate America, the voters have no say. Corporations --- unless owned equally by all the employees --- are autocratic dictatorships and the CEO's are the dictators. The primary goal of a corporation is not to serve the people but to make a profit from the people even if that means robbing them deaf, dumb and blind.