Republicans claim that health care reform is dangerous to patients due to a potential for “rationing care.” But we’re already in an era of health care rationing, with hospitals no longer having a large enough supply of numerous life saving drugs to be able to safely and effectively treat patients.
Via the Washington Post:
A record 211 medications became scarce in 2010 — triple the number in 2006 — and at least 89 new shortages have been recorded through the end of March, putting the nation on track for far more scarcities.
The paucities are forcing some medical centers to ration drugs — including one urgently needed by leukemia patients — postpone surgeries and other care, and scramble for substitutes, often resorting to alternatives that may be less effective, have more side effects and boost the risk for overdoses and other sometimes-fatal errors.
“It’s a crisis,” said Erin R. Fox, manager of the drug information service at the University of Utah, who monitors drug shortages for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “Patients are at risk.”
One reason for the shortage in the drugs, according to the report? Pharmaceutical companies, who have been busy buying up and consolidating manufacturers and making only higher profit margin drugs to increase their bottom line are now running short of the drugs they didn’t see as potential financial cash cows.
The desire to make profit more than make drugs had already become evident in the crisis companies are facing now that their patents are beginning to expire, allowing cheaper generic versions to be created — an effort some companies have gone to great length to try and block. Rather than spending profits on research and development for new drugs, they simply buy more patents, and spend more money wooing doctors into prescribing their labels or running ads to convince consumers that they need a particular brand name medication. Instead of making drugs, they make profits, and pour those profits back into making more profits.
Meanwhile, sick patients, like those with leukemia, are being turned away from hospitals that cannot give drugs to new patients, reserving them instead for those who have already started their treatments.
A number of hospitals said they have to ration supply, meaning some patients won’t get the doses they need. It also means they have to turn new patients away.
Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha said, “At one point last week we were completely out of enough cytarabine for any new patients. We had enough to finish the current patients we had in the hospital but no new ones.”
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore said it only had a two-week supply. “We are really worried if we get a new patient with AML — that will be very hard to keep up with.”
Some hospitals said the shortage forces them to reserve whatever cytarabine they have for their current patients.
Dr. Jeff Hord, a hematologist-oncologist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, said it is treating three or four patients for AML, and its supply of cytarabine is set aside for them.
National health care would ration medical services? We already have rationed health services — it’s just that right now insurers and pharmaceutical companies are reaping huge profits while the sick are being rejected for treatment.