I don't know if our congressman, Steven Palazzo, or our senator, Roger Wicker, has ever suffered from hemorrhoids. It is my hope they have not, nor ever will, because they are very busy men and do not have time to tend to one more pain in the bum, having I'm sure, enough of them to contend with already.
However, if they should be so unfortunate to be so afflicted, as it recently so happened to one of my patients, it is also my hope that they don't experience what he experienced.
Riding a mower for three hours, pausing for only a five minute break, can be enough I suppose for a middle-aged man to prolapse a hemorrhoid. So included in the treatment was a prescription for two-dozen cortisone suppositories (AnusolHC), a medication that eases up the retraction of a prolapsed hemorrhoid, reducing the swelling and pain, and it's a medicine that's been around since before 1940, over 75 years.
On presenting the prescription to a Walgreens pharmacy the gentleman was politely told he would have to pay $1,000, for the brand name, or $347.99 for the generic, for the 24 suppositories, which not too very long ago cost less than $20. To the skeptic reader, I invite you to call a Walgreens now and verify this.
It was as much a shock to me as it was to him to learn the current price of this medication. So I called the Walgreens pharmacy to inquire about the high price. The pharmacist said she didn't know why the prices were as they are and referred me to corporate and added that Walgreens bought their generics from the pharmaceutical company Perrigo.
In 2013 Perrigo, headquartered in Allegan, Michigan, since 1887, bought out Elan Corporation and reincorporated in Ireland in order to cut its tax bill in half and boost its royalty stream. Perrigo is the largest maker of generic drugs for major retail chains in the U.S., including Walmart and Walgreens. The reason for the reincorporation to Ireland, which exists only on paper, is to escape the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35% and replace it with Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax rate. It's hard to blame a company, or anyone, for trying to reduce their tax bill. Been there, tried to do that.
But one would think that a company that cuts its tax bill in half would not be inclined to astronomically raise the prices of its generic products, almost across the board, especially since they are still making a handsome profit at the old price as well as sharing the wealth with its shareholders. But, as we are all learning, this is not how transnational corporations think or operate in the universe of global economics. And U.S. lawmakers are either impotent, or unwilling, to come to the aid of the wage earner regarding this issue. Probably for good reason, for them.
It is, and would be, charitable of course to be concerned about, and hope that no one, including well paid elected officials, might encounter the financial obstacle my patient did in procuring the needed prescription medication, especially if it's needed to ease the pain in the bum. But such charitable concern would be in vain as both of the above referenced elected officials are veterans and as such have insurance as national legislators and a drug benefit allowing them to receive this medication for free, or at minimum a copay that you can be sure does not equal $1,000 -- or $347.99.
Which causes one to rightly ask the question if our representatives are really sensitive (or perhaps desensitized) to the issue of high drug prices. Sensitive enough to care about those of us who are at the mercy of the political influence and power of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies and the ongoing high prices of common and older medications?
There is nothing on the websites of Congressman Palazzo or Senator Wicker regarding the attention to anything to do with high priced drugs. This is not to say that there aren't any good issues that they've addressed in the past in authoring and co-sponsoring legislation that has been good for our state.
But in the past few years especially, it is becoming more difficult for people to access affordable older, and common, generic medications because of the continuing sporadic yet steadily increasing rise in prices.
For example, colchicine, a medication used to treat acute gouty arthritis attacks was once $5. Now it is $104. The antibiotic doxycycline, which has been around since the cave-days, once cost $5. It now costs $90. And a pinworm treatment medicine (Albenzar) that once costs under $30 now costs $403!!
I should hope the fallout and recent furor over Epipen, an example of pharmaceutical companies' ability to defy the free market system, will continue to shine a bright light on the issue.
What will it take for legislators to tackle this problem? I'm not holding my breath anticipating a systemic change to be forthcoming soon. Because why should any legislator want to bother, especially since insurance and pharmaceutical companies continue to profit well above the average profit margins of most American businesses all the while continuing to be one of the major and most influential lobbies ever, as well as healthy contributors to the various political campaigns of many legislators -- which for a lot of unelected people can be a real pain in the ass.
In the meantime, you may want to take more frequent breaks if you're on the riding mower, and avoid constipation and repetitive heavy lifting both of which can contribute to hemorrhoids.