How To Turn 8 Pennies Into $600September 2014
By William Faloon
Example Of How Medical Progress Occurs
Life Extension ’s discovery of ribavirin’s multi-benefits was somewhat serendipitous.
Scientists supported by Life Extension faced a viral epidemic in their animal colony. They went to Mexico in 1983 to purchase ribavirin, hoping it would save their research project. The ribavirin cured the animals. When the scientists contracted viral infections themselves, the ribavirin cured the scientists.21 So Life Extension knew ribavirin was effective from studies that had been published in the scientific literature, by the fact it had been approved by drug regulators in most other countries, and because it worked on animals and humans infected with a wide array of viruses.36-40
Ribavirin by itself is not a cure for hepatitis C. It has to be combined with the FDA-approved drug interferon-alpha to achieve viral eradication.41-45 Many hepatitis C patients do achieve viral eradication with interferon alone, but it is a grueling therapy.46-48
So first there was interferon-alpha that cured some hepatitis C patients.49-50 In those it failed to cure, it still reduced future risk of liver cancer.51-55 When ribavirin was added to interferon-alpha, eradication rates doubled, according to some research.33,35 This was a major advance, but the FDA still required hepatitis C patients to undergo six-month treatment using interferon, which inflicts horrific side effects.
With the approval of Sovaldi®, 90% of hepatitis C patients will be cured19 and most of them should be able to avoid interferon-alpha therapy. But for Sovaldi® to optimally work, it needs ribavirin.
I hope you see the stair-step approach often required for real medical breakthroughs to occur. If it were not for a Herculean battle waged in the 1980s-1990s to get ribavirin approved, Sovaldi® may never have made it past initial clinical testing. It needed co-administering of ribavirin to achieve its curative effect.
The FDA now states that Sovaldi® should not be used without ribavirin.56 Yet before 1998, the FDA initiated criminal investigations against those who promoted ribavirin’s antiviral benefits.21
The problem is that there are precious few resources available to identify which of the thousands of compounds in the developmental stage should be fast-tracked to save lives today. It’s in the interest of some drug companies to delay expending billions to get a better drug approved if that superior drug would compete with existing, already approved patented drugs.
Life Extension ’s mission is not to incite revolts against bureaucrats who refuse to recognize good science. Yet we have been put in that position as the pharmaceutical establishment cowers to governmental whim and edict when it comes to obtaining official drug approval.
The frightening aspect of this is that no one really knows how many cures are being suppressed by pharmaceutical companies that don’t want their valuable patents diminished by bringing out more effective treatments. There is also the risk that the FDA might overlook good science and reject an effective therapy after billions have been spent.
We need to tear down bureaucratic barriers that stifle medical progress. Huge numbers of hepatitis C patients could have been saved had the FDA not blocked the approval of ribavirin. Even today, many health insurance companies are refusing to pay for Sovaldi (the $84,000 drug) until after hepatitis C patients succumb to liver failure.
Our 30-Year War Against Extortionist Drug Prices
Life Extension has members worldwide. This is one reason why we are able to discover novel approaches to disease prevention and treatment before they become accepted by the medical mainstream.
A consistent comment we hear from members in other countries is how low priced their drugs are compared to the US. We’ve used this information to expose the incestuous relationship that exists between pharmaceutical companies, government bureaucrats, and elected politicians that cause American drugs to be so outlandishly priced.
To put this in context, Life Extension compiled the chart on the previous page nearly 12 years ago to expose the outlandish markups of prescription drugs.57 This chart was blown up and used on the floor of the House of Representatives to push through a bill that would allow Americans to import lower-cost medications from other countries. Aggressive consumer activism enabled this bill to be signed into law.
The FDA nixed the law on technical grounds that it (the FDA) did not have the resources to ensure the safety of imported drugs. This single act by the FDA provided the pharmaceutical industry with a financial windfall as Americans struggle to pay increasing health insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and higher taxes to subsidize government-mandated insurance programs like the Affordable Care Act.
I relate this history to let new members know that we are no strangers to drug price gouging. The markup on acyclovir ointment where consumers pay close to $7003 for an ingredient that costs 8 pennies exceeds anything we’ve seen in the past.
These irrational prices are being forced on consumers who need pharmaceuticals often to stay alive. These outrageous markups would never survive in a free-market environment.
This blatant price gouging exists because of government-imposed regulations under the guise of consumer protection. These regulations stifle innovation, strangle creation of new treatments, and cost the public their money and longevity.
The obvious solution is to open up the market so that any reputable company could produce something as simple as acyclovir ointment and the many other generics that don’t require specialized manufacturing expertise.
For longer life,
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