The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Medicare Considering Not Paying for Life Saving Drugs

Mar 1, 2004

The government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS) has proposed to stop paying for certain life saving medicines. These are new drugs that have been approved so far for only one type of disease, which doctors found effective for another. Sixty% of cancer specialists say they use such "off-label treatment." Dr. Sean R. Tunis, chief medical officer at CMMS, is out front about the reason for the proposed change: "That practice wasn’t a problem when drugs cost $100 to $150 per patient, but it’s another thing when they are $3,000 to $4,000 per patient."

The government says prices are out of control? We agree. But why do drugs cost $3,000? It doesn’t cost that much to do the research and then produce the drugs. It’s simply because the government gives the drug companies a patent so they can charge whatever they want for decades.

They tell us that capitalist competition holds down prices. But it obviously doesn’t hold down the price of drugs. The companies need to be forced to lower prices.

The government’s response instead is simply not to pay for the drugs, letting the patients die if they can’t afford them.

In capitalist society, it’s money that gives you the right to live.