Note: This is a non-philosophical post, this time. If you're not interested in a rant, feel free to skip this one!
My doctor recommended that I take quinine to help with the side-effects of the cancer treatment. If I lived in Canada that would cost less than $20 per month. But this isn't Canada. Here in the USA it costs $160 per month.
Why? Apparently the American Food and Drug Administration got all excited because:
Up to 53 people per year die from misuse of quinine.
So they restricted it. Now only a few drug companies can sell it in the USA. Which means that they can (and do) charge more than 8 times the price that it would be in Canada.
How nice for them! They managed to take a drug that is as old, well-known and easy to make as aspirin ... and they had it declared dangerous so they could control it.
But hey, 53 deaths per year in the USA — that's a good reason to control it, right? No.
Those 53 deaths are tragic, but in a population of 300 million it's a negligible risk. It's comparable to the number of Americans killed each year by lightning (around 30). More to the point, though:
Did you know that good old aspirin causes over 50,000 deaths per year in the USA (due to gastric bleeding)? Yeah, nearly 1000 times as many deaths, but it's not controlled like quinine.
Even the pharmaceutical companies can't figure out a way to get a near-monopoly on aspirin.
I can't afford to pay $160 per month for relief from something that isn't actually killing me. I guess I'll just have to live with the muscle cramps and diarrhea. Or move to Canada.
My doctor has, in the past, arranged for me to get certain very expensive meds free from the pharmaceutical companies. I don't want to sound completely hostile to them. The American system does have loopholes for people in dire straits. Sometimes it all works and everything's great. But not this time.