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Price of Cancer Medication

September 20, 1993

In response to "Faith Lost, a Doctor Turns Bitter," Sept. 12:

I read the article on the Johnson & Johnson cancer medication, levamisole, and was appalled that the company so easily and without conscience would try to make so much profit on the pain and suffering of others. If the animal prescription of levamisole (selling for 6 cents per pill) hadn't been found to help in the treatment of colon cancer, they wouldn't have raised the price to $6 per pill for humans. They still would be selling the animal medication and making a profit. (I thought a wider market also brought in more profit, even at the same price!) They say they are paying for the research! This drug has been on the market since 1961! It is hard to see anything but greed and callousness toward those whose lives are threatened and in need.

Johnson & Johnson says that changes in the patent law that would affect things like this must come from Congress (not conscience?). Are they proposing federal pharmaceutical price controls?



* Dr. Charles Moertel, meet Jimmy Stewart. This Frank Capra scenario is almost too good to be true. When did we last hear someone say, "It's not my business to make money on drugs. . . . I don't care if the drug company makes money off my work. I get paid a nice salary. And I'm doing something good for folks. I have a nice home, and I'm going fishing this weekend. Want more do I need?"

How can Johnson & Johnson officials brazenly deny they're gouging the public when the numbers are all against them? Anyone with a smidgen of intelligence can see that $1,200 a year for levamisole treatment makes no sense compared with the $150 a year cost in Europe.

The drug companies say they must recoup their research costs by charging high prices to the consumer. What they don't talk about is that they are spending more on advertising their wares to doctors than on research. And in the case of levamisole the taxpayer paid for most of the research.

Let's hope that Dr. Moertel's crusade against pharmaceutical greed pays off. The extraordinary profits of the drug companies must be curbed or we will never solve the staggering cost of health care. Are you listening, Hillary?



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