In Flint Michigan, the tap water residents have been regularly consuming was found to be contaminated with lead. If lead poisoning wasn’t enough of a problem for the area, they now find themselves being taken by corporate greed. Lead poisoned water isn’t specific to Flint however, there is a problem nationwide and the pharmaceutical companies seem to be the big benefactor.
After acquiring the the drug used to treat lead poisoning, Calcium EDTA, in 2013 through a $2.6 billion dollar deal that bought out pharmaceutical company Medicis. Valeant Pharmaceuticals has raised the price of the drug by some 2,700 percent. The price for a package of vials prior to the 2013 buyout of Medicis was just under $1,000. Now the price for a vial through Valeant is nearly $27,000.
Calcium EDTA has held a stable price for decades. The product is most effective in severe and life-threatening cases of lead poisoning. Poison control specialists and hospitals have been outraged by the price increase since the start. The price increase by Valeant limits the availability of the drug to those in urgent situations. Although not needed in large quantities, Calcium EDTA has a short shelf-life.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals is a greedy company that buys up other pharmaceutical companies and jacks up the prices. Since there are government programs on top of insurance agencies to protect patients from the high cost of the drugs, the burden is passed along to all through higher taxes, premiums and co-payments. Federal officials have received numerous complaints from doctors about the massive price hikes on drugs which are now owned by Valeant. Despite efforts to get the government to react to big pharmaceutical companies, there is still no relief in sight.
A Valeant spokesman doesn’t seem to see any problem with the current pricing. “The list price increases over the past several years have enabled us to provide to the market consistent availability of a product with high carrying costs and very limited purchase volume of 200 to 300 units per year.” Valeant has thus far raised prices on many name brand drugs by an average of 66 percent.
The problem started when the city decided to switch providers from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in an effort to save money. The new plan was to connect a pipeline to the Karegnondi Water Authority. The city of Flint decided to take water from the Flint River, which it formerly used until the 1960’s, until the $200 million 25 year pipeline project can be completed. Flint acted too fast without first taking into account the cleanliness of the Flint River’s water.