See the Pyramids and Save 99% Off Sovaldi

What if we lived in an alternative reality where drug companies were actively involved in medical tourism? Foreign drug markets are so affordable insurance companies would be flying patients out of the country to cure their patients at pennies on the dollar. It is cheaper for a US provider to fly an American to Egypt and cure Hepatitis C there than pay domestic prices. Do you have Hepatitis C? Have you seen the pyramids? One day you might go to your local pharmacy to fill a prescription and, instead of getting a pill bottle and an instruction sheet, the pharmacist would just slide a boarding pass across the counter with a few travellers checks.

The New York Times published a well reported article on the scourge of Hepatitis C in Egypt, its pervasive reach, and the recent efforts by drug companies and the Egyptian government to fight it. The disease attacks the liver. It can have severe side effects and can sometimes lead to death. Recent breakthroughs have brought a cure to market in the form of a few different specialty medications. Unfortunately for sufferers in the United States the cure known as Sovaldi costs $120,000, or $1,000 a day. In Egypt, because of certain agreements with manufacturers, a licensed generic is sold for a lot less.

“Gilead has sold the drug to the Egyptian government for about $10 a pill. The government distributes it to pharmacies across the country, where it is dispensed free to patients.”

Egyptian patients get access to the medication for 1% of what the medications cost in the United States. This strategy is good business. Drug companies have become more sophisticated in their approach to disease in the third world. They received a lot of criticism for mishandling the AIDS crisis in Africa with overly aggressive tactics. After South Africa suspended drug patents in an attempt to address their HIV disaster:

“Western manufacturers retaliated, closing some of their South African plants and threatening to stop selling their new drugs there. They went so far as to sue President Nelson Mandela, starting what former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan described as a ‘worldwide revolt of public opinion.'”

The drug companies have learned their lesson. They have gotten savvier by offering cheap blockbuster drugs in crisis areas, while establishing precautions that prevent black market leaks back into the US. The domestic market is afforded no such generosity. US payers are exposed to the most expensive drugs in the world because the US is an unregulated market. There are no benchmarks in place or standards by which Big Pharma is compelled to justify a medication’s price.

Without any regulatory help from the government, drug companies have been able to gouge domestic payers with exploding prices; generics are going up and specialty drugs are approaching market meltdown price levels. Escaping to Egypt is a fantasy and cures with only 1% costs with camel rides to the pyramids are only a mirage. With no government intervention, the market will have to find its own solutions to the growing prescription cost burden.

There is no wishing it away and there is no escape. The only option is to address the problem directly and the best approach would be using new technology and data applications. RxREVU may not lower costs 99% or offer cruises up the Nile, but using our platform could be proof a company wasn’t in denial or had its head in the sand.