There were a few Donald Trump promises even a self-respecting Democratic Socialist of America would have wanted to see fulfilled. Actually, most Americans would have liked to have seen one Trump guarantee come through. If it had, sick people wouldn’t have to resort to buying, selling and even swapping pricey pharmaceutical drugs with other sick people via Facebook.
There was a time that the high cost of prescription drugs was a big Donald Trump talking point.
Pharmaceutical companies are out of control, candidate Trump would say on the campaign trail. Their lobbyists have too much power. Senators and congressmen are in their pocket.
But not Trump! Trump would “give consumers more options” by allowing Americans to import cheap generic drugs from other countries. Yes—a fair trade deal! Draining of the swamp! Trump to the rescue!
Magically, Trump stopped talking about pricey prescription drugs shortly after he was elected, as the LA Times observed late last year.
Around that time, he started giving the pharmaceutical lobby’s friends in Congress jobs in the administration. Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, once helped kill a deal to bring in cheaper drugs for Medicaid patients—and on the same day, was rewarded with $90,000 in stock in six pharmaceutical companies, as ProPublica reported.
Whoa! Bad! Corrupt. The swamp, the undrained swamp, it drowns us!
But hey, look—we’re all Americans here. So Bernie Sanders tried to help Donald Trump out.
In February, Sanders and a few other Democrats in Congress introduced a plan that would allow Americans to buy from their local pharmacies generic drug manufacturers in Canada—rather than be forced to buy name-brand drugs from pharmaceutical companies with exclusive trademarks, and ergo the ability to price-fix like millennial comic-book villain Martin Shkreli.
This is why Americans spend more than $310 billion a year on prescription drugs—drugs made by companies in which Tom Price, Donald Trump’s health secretary, has bought stock. This is also why many Americans, including relatives of Sen. Tim Kaine, who a lifetime ago was going to be Hillary Clinton’s vice president, already buy drugs from other countries via online pharmacies.
And wouldn’t you know—Senate Republicans killed Bernie Sanders’s plan dead, deader than someone with a newfound pre-existing condition, deader than a sick person who was one of the 24 million Americans slated to lose health insurance under Paul Ryan’s health-care plan.
The excuse Republicans on a Senate committee gave, as the plan died on a 13-10 party-line vote, was that drugs bought from Canada are not safe. Bad, foreign drugs! Safety from counterfeit drugs! And stock, also stock options.
“What this debate is about is the power of the pharma industry, which next to Wall Street, is the most powerful entity in the United States,” said Sanders, according to the Washington Examiner. “Pharma has endless supplies of money in order to get their way in the Congress.”
It bears mentioning that none of this would be happening—drugs would be cheaper, Price would be investing in Waffle Houses and Shkreli would be torrenting rare Wu-Tang cuts—if we had single-payer healthcare.
Here’s the Examiner:
Drugs made in the U.S. are less expensive in Canada because the country has a single-payer program, so the government has the power to negotiate with drug companies for cheaper prices. …
Democrats have been trying for decades to legalize the practice, but measures have always fallen short.
Here, but look—we are a nation of entrepreneurs! When a mother needs a third vial of insulin for her diabetic child, and her insurance company won’t give her one and she can’t buy one out-of-pocket, she doesn’t cry about it—she posts pleading messages on Facebook!
“In desperate need of humalog,” one woman posted, as NBC News reported. “I have tons of lantus to trade. And working dexcom share receivers. And sensors. And glucagon.”
Americans in Trump’s America are strong and smart. They’ll swap drugs given from their insurer for other drugs the insurer won’t cover—because the black-market drugs work better! As usual, this is all about the deal. The better deal. The best deal.
“If it weren’t for the online diabetes community, I would be dead,” said Amy Leyendecker, a 43-year-old medical transcription student from Kentucky living with Type-1 diabetes who requires daily doses of insulin to stay alive.
After her husband switched jobs and her insurance got shittier, Leyendecker’s insulin costs recently skyrocketed from $25 to $900. Her primary-care provider, a physician’s assistant, knew all about it—and only warned her to be careful, as you can’t be sure black-market drugs haven’t been tampered with.
Other pharmaceutical companies tut-tutted, noting that buying insulin from total strangers is risky. Yes! Risk and reward, gambling with one’s life. You don’t want to do that, says the kind of people working with the kind of companies in which Tom Price was given stock.
The price of insulin recently went up another eight percent.
This is an awesome price, the result of “robust negotiations” between insurers and drug companies, said Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), in comments to NBC.
Yes, when the result of such robustness is Americans forced onto a Silk Road for pharmaceuticals, everything is working out great.