The Price of Saving Lives

How much would you be willing to pay for a drug that cured fatal diseases such as Cancer, HIV/AIDS, or Chronic Hepatitis? In other words, how much money is human being’s life worth? There should be no set amount of money linked to the life of a human being, yet in our society today money is a measure of survival. Medical technology continues to evolve and progress so rapidly that the unconceivable idea of life-saving medicines for these so-called ‘incurable diseases’ is becoming more of a reality. Yet the independent companies that are beginning to develop these drugs plan to charge colossal amounts of money.

It is important to understand that market of medicine involves ethical dilemmas strictly because these products being put out in the market have everything to do with the well being of humans. Gilead Sciences, a company based in California is likely going to exceed $10 billion dollars in sales by 2015 for their recently discovered drug Sovaldi. The drug, which was approved by the government last December, is an efficient treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease that causes scarring of the liver and liver cancer. But at the steep price of $1000 for each pill, victims of the disease cannot afford the $84,000, 12- week course of treatment.

16hepatitis-pic2-tmagSF

Sovaldi Tablets by Gilead Sciences

To answer the earlier questions, multiple billions of dollars doesn’t seem to be enough for Gilead Sciences to aid the 150 million people affected by Hepatitis C and save the 350,000 people who die from it annually. Astoundingly,“(Gilead) can profit from sales of Sovaldi even when it cuts the drug’s price by 99 percent.” How can they be so selfish to supply a necessity with no substitute goods at an unaffordable price to the majority of its consumers? The demand for this product is huge given the number of people affected by Hepatitis C, yet the supplier sets the price extremely high even with minimal limitations on the amount they are able to supply.

Of the 150 million affected by Hepatitis C, 100 million of the victims reside in developing countries, where $1000 is more than some of these people make in a year. Recently, Gilead released information that they are planning on selling their chronic Hepatitis C treatment for a small fraction of what it sells for in the US to the 91 developing countries known with high levels of Hepatitis C victims. In India, the Sovaldi drug is proposed to sell for $10 per pill. It is interesting that the price of these drugs varies from country to country based on the wealth of that nation because it shows that companies like Gilead Sciences favor profit over taking moral actions to reduce universal disease.

HEP C MAP

Hepatitis C by % of population in each country

Gilead’s willingness to make this Hepatitis C drug more affordable in developing countries is admirable, yet the fact that millions of people affected by the disease will still be unable to access Sovaldi due to scarce incomes while Gilead continues making billions off sales is rather dispiriting.

Works Cited

Harris, Gardiner. “Maker of Costly Hepatitis C Drug The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

“Hepatitis C.” WHO. World Health Organization, Apr. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

“Hepatitis C Facts.” Hepatitis C. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

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One thought on “The Price of Saving Lives

  1. I see parallels between this disturbing phenomenon and my piece (The Mommy Tax). Without an economic incentive to lower the price of medicine (or offer maternity leave), firms will not to do, even at the cost of saving lives (or closing the wage gap for the good of society). In these instances, I wonder, how will anything change? Government regulation? Social pressures? Showing the economic benefits to having healthier citizens who are able to work? Without an economic benefit that directly increases the profit of the firm, I see nothing changing.

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