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The Cost Of Medicines

June 2, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 22

I am not so interested in the suit by Roche against the Indian firm Cipla over the generic version of Tarceva, a Roche lung cancer drug (C&EN, Jan. 28, page 15). I am interested in another facet of the story: the cost of the drug. The lawyers will sort out who owns what at an immense cost to both parties.

In the U.S., the cost of treatment would be more than $45,000 per year. Although someone with lung cancer would be willing to pay for this drug to save his or her life, who would have enough money to do so? There is nothing like making a drug to be used only by the very wealthy to show the disparity of wealth in the U.S. and the unfairness of the health care system under which we live.

Of course, the Indian firm is doing no favors for the people of India. At a cost of more than $15,000 per year, I doubt that it will be widely used there.

If we are to have life-saving drugs, should we not also find some way to provide them to those in need so as to actually save lives? We constantly talk about the preciousness of a single life, yet we stop research on fetal stem cells. But we sit and watch people die every day because they are unable to afford a needed drug. Where is the compassion of all the churches in the land? Why is it directed toward single cells while ignoring living people?

Ellis Glazier
La Paz, Mexico



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