Major savings available in VA budget, if we look
By Michael Joseph Little
For starters, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) significantly overpays for both pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
When Gilead Sciences initially priced their new HCV cure at nearly $100,000 for a 2-3 month course of treatment, the financial burden of treating veterans with HCV threatened to - and nearly did - blow the VA’s budget, not to mention those of many state health care programs. When their competitor AbbVie came out with a similar new treatment, the new price with competition on the market was hardly a deal at only a few thousand dollars lower. It wasn’t until political pressure from Congress came into the equation that these two companies cut their prices in half and the burden on VA’s budget began to become slightly less eye-popping. However what really brought the prices for these drugs more in line with reason and rationality was the introduction of yet a third treatment option from yet another competitor, Merck. Now the VA pays less than one-quarter of what drug manufacturers were originally asking it to pay per treatment, and those companies are still raking in billions in profits.
Meanwhile, the VA is still paying Gilead, AbbVie, and Merck tens of thousands of dollars for these drugs for each and every veteran who needs the three-month treatment. While we may think we have struck the best deal and that these drug companies who operate and enjoy their billions of dollars in profit under the blanket of freedom and liberty that American veterans provide them, think again. In countries like India and Egypt, these same drugs are offered by some of these same companies for one-twentieth of the VA’s “rock bottom deal” price.