Disabled people, sick people are often treated as and described as burdens. We’re so much work to take care of, our drugs are so expensive! Stefan Strecko has cystic fibrosis and can’t get his insurance company to pay for the drug he needs.

A Halifax man who has battled lung infections, digestive issues and had trouble breathing his entire life because of cystic fibrosis says he’s devastated his health insurance provider won’t cover the cost of a promising but prohibitively expensive new medication after initially approving his request. [CBC]

Prohibitively expensive, in this case, is $25,000/month.

There’s an organization in Canada called CADTH that basically determines whether drugs can get insurance coverage. They do a cost-benefit analysis for drugs. In Stefan’s case

The preliminary CADTH review has suggested the need for a 90 per cent reduction in price before it would be covered by public and private health plans, but the final review is pending.

This drug is the best treatment for Stefan, but Canada doesn’t think it’s worth it to relieve his suffering. Instead, they’ll offer him MAID. We won’t pay for him to live, but we will pay for him to die.

CADTH’s reports are why I laid out >$10,000 out of pocket for drugs in the last few years. It’s not that the drugs don’t work, but that the benefits aren’t “worth it” compared to the drug cost.

Of course, they don’t count the days I’m not in the ER because of the drug, or too sick to work but well enough to at least feed myself and sit up for a few hours. Part of that’s because pharmaceutical research is unbelievably scammy and often deliberately makes it very hard to actually tell how well a drug works and what kinds of benefits it has relative to other treatments. Part of that is because they don’t value disabled lives.

Down-weighting benefits is fucked up, but not what I want to write about today. See, the cost is treated as something fixed when it doesn’t have to be. That drug that’s $25,000/month? There is no reason it needs to be so expensive!

We should be making it in a government-run or Crown corporation drug factory and selling it at cost. We could and should be doing this with so many drugs and with vaccines and many other medical supplies as well. Intellectual property rights grant temporary monopolies and the only reason to do that is when the benefits outweigh the costs. It turns out they often don’t.

The drugs many sick and disabled people take create an enormous financial burden for us and the people who care for us, but the flip side of that is that they are enormous profit for pharma companies. We shouldn’t keep prioritizing corporate profits over the health and well being of actual people.