Monday, April 14, 2008

Cargiburton Announces New Futures Market

World famous Cargiburton Corp. announced today that they've envisioned an even better way to accumulate wealth; by trading in medicine and medical supplies.

"Look," said CEO Darth Chainy, "we're already shoveling in the money by buying up corn, wheat, rice and crap like that- just hold it a while, and the price goes up.  So it occurred to me- why the hell aren't we doing this with medical stuff?  I mean, Jeez.  How dumb can we get?"  He admitted the idea was stimulated by his finally realizing how much money is already pumped out of those needing medicines.  "We just don't have any piece of that action, and I resent it." he grinned.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve Bank reacted with enthusiasm, and pledged to work hard not to regulate this "brilliant new financial sector instrument."  "This really could be the answer to the burst housing bubble." burbled Ben-Bob Berninny, the Head Fed.  "I mean really, think of it- you buy up all these chemotherapy drugs- and hold them!  The price HAS to go up!"

Cargiburton announced new divisions specifically aimed at controlling the AIDS drugs markets, anti-malaria drugs, cold and flu medications, and medical oxygen.  Vitamins were ruled out- it's too easy for people to just eat green veggies, which they already control anyway.

And so it goes.

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Apologies to Crunchy- no, this is not funny.  In case some of you can't tell, I'm FURIOUS at the moment.  

11 comments:

AleciaMarie said...

Great... It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?!

Marnie said...

they're pirates. legalised and encouraged, which makes it worse....i'm at a loss about how to stop it. it's hard to push on icebergs with the weight of the world on your shoulders at the same time...deep sigh...guess i'll keep growing my herbs....

DC said...

When you introduce a profit motive into medicine, that's what happens.

My wife takes a drug that costs over $20,000 a year (in the U.S. -- it's only $10,000 for the identical drug in Canada). We're really fortunate to have a good prescription drug plan that covers all but around $1,000 a year. If we ever lost that coverage, we wouldn't be able to afford for her to keep taking it. It's pretty important too -- without it, she would probably lose what's left of her ability to walk pretty quickly.

People in the third world have it the worst, of course. And, not surprisingly, U.S. policies favoring big drug companies have exacerbated existing problems.

Well, let it out, but don't stay mad too long, Greenpa. Sustained anger is unhealthy, ya know. All that will happen is that you'll wind up with high blood pressure or some other stress related condition that isn't covered by our "Don't Get Sick" national health care plan. Spring blossoms, warm weather and sunshine are on the way. Your daughter and significant other are with you. I prescribe a deep breath of fresh air and a hug from the ones you love -- no copay required.

Anonymous said...

You know, the plight of many of the folks in that article definitely has my sympathy. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this rather than less. It's just the way things are headed, unfortunately.

But the woman they started the article with - she wants everyone else to subsidized the very expensive drug that is probably saving HER LIFE - so she can have fun vacations. Sorry, not so much sympathy there. I think folks like that have their priorities a bit out of whack. Having it all is nice, but not when you're asking other people - many of whom definitely do NOT have it all - to pay for it.

DC said...

Anon,

I can sorta see where you're coming from, but the whole idea of health insurance (or national health care, if you're fortunate enough to live in a country that has it) is that a large group of people subsidizes the cost of health care for those who need it. No one knows who is going to get really sick and need expensive drugs and care, but we all want to be able to afford those things if it happens to be us. Without some type of system where the costs are shared, many people unfortunate enough to have terrible health problems wouldn't be able to afford health care (a lot in the U.S. can't already because the system is broken).

By charging so much for drugs and care, the insurance and drug companies aren't trying to protect you from high premiums -- they're trying to maximize their profits. Your premiums won't go down because people can't afford medication they need. Actually, making drugs and treatment expensive for people causes health care expenses to skyrocket because people wait to seek treatment until a health crisis occurs, and the care that's required is much costlier than it would have been if early treatment had been sought.

The U.S. leads the world in spending on health care. Its health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country in the world but ranks 37 out of 191 countries in health care quality. We can do better than that. Everyone should have access to affordable health care, including whatever medications they need.

Crunchy Chicken said...

We are lucky in that our insurance is much better than average. My husband's last round of chemo (Revlimid) costs $150,000 per year. He was approved for a year - our copay was $10 a month. Sure, we pay a lot of copays for other drugs and it adds up, but without it, he'd in all actuality be dead.

The stem cell transplant he's about to undergo costs $300,000. If he has two back-to-back (as is planned) the costs will add up quickly. I don't exactly understand why it costs so much, I'm assuming they are calculating in a long hospital stay, but who knows, it's not very transparent.

Of course, we have a $2 million lifetime maximum with our insurance which can be reached pretty quickly with his cancer. Just since September he's already gone through $110,000 for the previous hospital stay. If we had to pay this ourselves we'd be beyond destitute and that's when really tough choices crop up. I don't know how or what people without decent insurance do it.

On the other hand, the costs to develop these drugs are extremely high. How much of this is being passed on to the patient and how much is fleecing isn't really clear. That is the type of oversight I'd like to see.

The argument also bleeds over into "fairness" and how much a life is worth. Does it make sense to spend several million dollars to extend one person's life a few months when the liklihood of them surviving isn't very high?

For me, personally, of course it is. But if that same money can be used for saving tens of thousands of kids in malaria stricken areas, that's when it gets hazy...

Goddamn ethics.

DC said...

Crunchy,

My wife had similar thoughts about the ethics of it all and actually wanted to stop taking her medicine because she thought it was inequitable for her to be taking expensive drugs when the same amount of money could save many peoples' lives.

What I told her was that while in theory the money spent on her health care could go to helping a lot of other people, it won't. It's not like the drug and insurance companies are going to take the money they save from people who don't get treatment and give it to kids in Africa suffering from malaria. It will just go to executives and shareholders of the companies instead of helping people who are sick.

Drug companies do not care about people in the developing world. They do not care about people. They care about money. Take a look at this article. The pharmaceutical industry works hard to prevent poor countries from manufacturing generic versions of essential medicines. By law, poor countries are allowed to produce their own generic drugs during public health crises, but when they have attempted to do so, the US government, lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry, has often threatened them with trade sanctions. Many drugs, though they are increasingly tested in the developing world, have inflated prices that usually put them out of the reach of the study population.

The argument that drug companies make that they need to charge exorbitant prices in order to do research is completely bogus as far as I'm concerned. A report by the consumer health organization Families USA found that drug companies are spending more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development; that drug company profits, which are higher than all other industries, exceed research and development expenditures; and that drug companies provide lavish compensation packages for their top executives. You can read more about it here.

I hope your husband's treatment goes well, Crunchy. I wouldn't give the cost of it all a second thought.

Greenpa said...

Crunchy- god, it sounds terrifying. I DO know a little about it; my son Beelar became a type 1 diabetic when he was 8. We had state welfare coverage only- which in Minnesota is enough.

DC is absolutely right here- saving the money spent wouldn't help the poor at all- it would just wind up in stockholder dividends- and new SUVs and jetskis.

So. Stop worrying about THAT, anyway. :-)

jewishfarmer said...

I don't have the health crisis (thank G-d), but my oldest son is autistic, and costs the school district and a host of other programs a big chunk of change every year - he uses more gas than anyone else because he gets bused to a private program 1/2 hour away, etc...

I've taken some public hits on this one (which is ok with me - I like the occasional public hit). And here is my take on this - it would be a fucking sin for my son to burn that oil and take that money out of the school district in a time of absolute scarcity, where equitable distribution of resources was essential to everyone getting theirs. When and if that ever happens, we'll take him out of school and educate him at home ourselves - to his cost, but we'll do it.

But we don't live in that world now - and as long as people fly on vacation, as long as people take drugs for minor illnesses, as long as people drive SUVs, etc... there is no reason whatsoever for the ill or disabled to feel any guilt about what they do to live or function in the world - period.

Saving lives and making it possible for people to live a basic, decent life is what those fossil fuels are *FOR* - they are not for the other crap. And I certainly believe that in an energy and resource scarce world, those of us who can have an obligation to use a little less so that the people we love who need a little more can have it. But it is important to remember that we are not in a situation of absolute scarcity - there is enough food and medicine to go around.

Sorry, this is a subject gets me riled up - I think it is wrong to be made to feel that we live in a world of scarcity when what we live in is a world of inequity....heading rapidly, because of stupidity and selfishness, towards absolute scarcity.

Sharon

DC said...

Sharon, I totally agree with you.

There are more than enough resources on this planet to provide everyone with food, clothing, shelter, education and health care -- including those who are unfortunate enough to need extra resources. There is absolutely no reason that anyone with special needs of any kind or degree should feel guilty about requiring extra help.

The predicament the world is in today is the result of selfishness and greed, not of overuse of resources by people who are sick, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged in life. If anything, we should be devoting a lot more resources to disadvantaged people than we do now. The income disparity between the wealthy and poor in the U.S. is greater than it's ever been. If we're looking at eliminating waste and inefficiency, let's start at the top. After all the people with McMansions and luxury cars downsize, after we stop using billions of tax dollars to subsidize corporate exploitation of people and the environment, and after we stop glorifying waste and inefficiency as part of the "good life" and "American Dream," then come to me and complain about the high cost of caring for the less fortunate.

DC said...

I just came across some interesting data from the UN's 1998 Human Development Report that I thought had some relevance to Sharon's comment.

Here are the amounts of money people spent on the following items in 1998:

Cosmetics in the U.S.: $8 billion
Ice cream in Europe: $11 billion
Perfumes in Europe and the U.S.: $12 billion
Pet foods in Europe and the U.S.: $17 billion
Business entertainment in Japan: $35 billion
Cigarettes in Europe: $50 billion
Alcoholic drinks in Europe: $105 billion
Narcotics drugs in the world: $400 billion
Military spending in the world: $780 billion

Now compare that to what it was estimated it would cost annually to achieve universal access to the following basic social services in all developing countries:

Basic education for all: $6 billion
Water and sanitation for all: $9 billion
Reproductive health for all women: $12 billion
Basic health and nutrition: $13 billion

Now, here's what the top five hedge fund managers made in 2007:

John Paulson: $3.7 billion
George Soros: $2.9 billion
James Simons: $2.8 billion
Philip Falcone: $1.7 billion
Kenneth Griffin: $1.5 billion

Yeah, right, we can't afford to subsidize the cost of drugs for sick people or waste gas to take autistic kids to special ed programs. If we did that, someone might not get to buy his own private island.