Letter: Cuba-US: Interesting information on medical treatment

Letter: Cuba-US: Interesting information on medical treatment

Dear Sir:

Recently I was reading an article, dated June 25th of this year, from the publication “Beat the Press Weekly Roundup”, written by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Political Research (CEPR), which is located in Washington, DC.

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The title of the article caught my attention: “Insulin is expensive because the government makes it expensive.” This article refers to another published in the Washington Post, in a column by Dr David Trigdell, who asks the government to take measures to reduce the price that patients have to pay for this medicine.

The problem is that pharmaceutical laboratories include in the price the cost of research and the rights they have as a monopoly in the manufacture of this type of product, plus a high share of profit, that if everything were regulated by the government, dependent patients would have to pay much less for the treatment they receive.

Baker argues that this is explained extensively in Chapter 5 of his book: “Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Have Been Structured to Make the Rich Richer”.

Another criterion to consider is that of Dr Joel Zonszein, director of the Center for the Clinical Treatment of Diabetes, located at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, who said, “This is a big problem. Some patients simply have no means of paying the cost of insulin that keeps their body at low levels, including people who have medical insurance.” He added that if the price of insulin is kept out of reach of some people, the health care system will end up having to pay more due to the necessary hospitalization and treatment of complications in a patient who has diabetes that has not been treated.

Immediately I began to compare, because I have insulin treatment, one fast and the other slow, which I have to inject four times a day. Monthly I consume one vial of each of these. The vials cost me 2.64 Cuban pesos, to which we can add cost of syringes and alcohol, all of which does not exceed five pesos per month. It is evident that part of the cost of this medicine is borne by the Cuban state.

Five Cuban pesos represents approximately 20 cents per cc, so as not to complicate much with the exchange, we could say that they represent 20 cents, perhaps a few cents more.

In order to make a real and current comparison, I wrote to comrade Karen Lee Wald, who is currently in the United States, to find out the price of insulin treatment for a month in that country. As we all know there prices vary according to the state, the brand of the product you are consuming, the type of treatment, whether you need four injections daily or two, the level of the hospital where you receive the treatment and even the owners of the pharmacy where you buy the medicine.

Disregarding all this and in accordance with the information I received from Karen, the cost of insulin treatment can be between $120 and $400 per month.

Here, American society, the government of the country, makes a substantial difference between those who have money to acquire medicine and those who do not.

I ask myself, is this not a problem where human rights are violated in the United States, specifically the right to continue living?

Dr Néstor García Iturbe

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