Reports today show RA arthritis sufferers struggle to find legal, affordable relief

Two beautiful new buds bloomed today on the pro-marijuana movement that I call the greening of America.

First, a shocking new report is making the rounds explaining how AbbVie is making outrageous sums of money off Humira, a medication approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Humira IS a critical medication for people who suffer from RA because it suppresses the immune system in such a way that RA progresses more slowly. RA occurs because the immune system thinks the body is sick. It unleashes an arsenal of chemicals that end up damaging bones and even organs over the long haul.

So, people with RA need their Humira. And, the fact that it is so financially out of reach for so many seems criminal. Especially when AbbVie is raking in billions off the med.

Meanwhile, in another report released today in Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, yet another medical researcher reluctantly admitted cannabis helps with alleviating pain .. even though the cannabis they used to reach their conclusions either was synthetic or of poor quality and extraordinarily low THC/CBC content. That’s all they have growing in the federal marijuana garden, after all.

Millions of Americans already can legally treat their RA pain with cannabis, and do. But in many other places in America, smoking pot for their RA pain could land them in jail.

Not only is this a disconnect, these two reports today are a slap upside each side of the head to people suffering from RA.

The I-MAK report on AbbVie and Humira

The good news is, there are people going to bat for RA sufferers.

In fact, I-MAK hit a home run today. Their scathing report released yesterday, “Overpatented, Overpriced: Special Humira Edition” may have been a bit on the technical side, but it uncovered just how AbbVie used patents to deliver a walloping dose of cash to the wallets of their shareholders.

I-MAK is a pharmaceutical watchdog group that battles for patients around the globe in desperate need of access to lifesaving medications. In the past, I have interviewed I-MAK officials about the cost of Hepatitis C medications, of which AbbVie is a manufacturer along with Gilead and others.

Price-gouging of Hepatitis C medications has hit certain groups such as Baby Boomers, and veterans in particular, extra hard. You can read all about that in this report.  Here’s an excerpt:

“In the end, it comes down to two words: Pharma lobby. Our nation’s own laws make it easy for the pharmaceutical industry to gorge consumers, and the power of the seemingly bottomless Pharma purse makes it difficult to get them changed.”

But worse, they wined and dined docs to get them to overprescribe the med.

HIV PrEP another drug that’s all about the money

Personally, it reminds me of the relentless push of the HIV prevention medication PrEP. Sadly, I now live in an area where I have to see this medication being pushed on commercials during the nightly news. PrEP allows those at risk for HIV to have sex without condoms; it’s the once daily HIV prevention pill.

However, STIs have skyrocketed and now some strains are antibiotic-resistant.

All while modern-day HIV medications have allowed those living with the disease to bring the virus down to undetectable levels, thereby making it impossible (so say many docs and scientists, I’d say NEARLY impossible) to transmit the disease.

I think PrEP is great for a small portion of the population. But to send a message via advertising that if you’re gay, bi or trans, you should be on PrEP, is irresponsible.

PrEP causes bone density loss, particularly in older males. It also IS possible for HIV to begin to learn to mutate over the long haul because of PrEP use.

So how does this relate to Humira?

California slams AbbVie with lawsuit, stock plummets

In breaking news Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones had slammed AbbVie with a lawsuit. 

“Ultimately, AbbVie gambled with the health and safety of thousands of Californians’ lives, including children, by making sure patients continued to take Humira at any cost, all to protect their profits not the health and well-being of patients,” Jones said.

Read more in my special report: Yes, Pharma reps likely do have a say in which medications you take

The AP report continues:

“Humira is an injectable drug that is widely advertised as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions and comes with a warning for cancer and serious infections that can turn deadly. It had sales of over $12 billion in 2017, according to the lawsuit.

Jones said insurance companies paid more than $1.2 billion for Humira for thousands of California patients between 2013 and August 2018. That figure makes the lawsuit the largest health care fraud case in the state insurance department’s history, according to Jones’ office.

AbbVie, which is facing billions of dollars in penalties, said the allegations are “without merit.”

Patients who do need drug can’t afford it

Although the federal government alone is shelling about a billion per year in federal Medicare and Medicaid payments to Humira, many common Joes and Josies are falling through the cracks.

Humira, with its 247 U.S. patents (more than triple what Europe has allowed, and more than quadruple Japan’s patents on Humira) is such a massive powerhouse med it carries the load for AbbVie. Indeed, it accounts for two-thirds of AbbVie’s revenue, according to I-MAK.

When you factor in all U.S. payers (insurance companies, federal government, etc.) total spending from the U.S. on Humira, each year, is $12 billion.

So why are people like Sue Lee of Crestwood, Kentucky suffering?

“I have plaque psoriasis and had been on Humira for over 4 years while employed. It was truly a miracle drug for me. Upon retirement (at age 75) in June 2017, I was shocked to learn that Humira would cost me $10,000 per year.”

According to I-MAK, Lee has stopped taking Humira. “I am keeping it under control right now (less stress from not working I guess) by using topical ointment and a lot of moisturizers but just this week I got four new sores on left leg,” she explains in the I-MAK report. 

So who approves the patents, and is Trump doing anything about this?

President Trump, business man he is, has an explanation for why our drug prices are so high. You can read it in this Washington Post opinion piece.

But it also is true that the patent wily nily is what’s causing these outrageous price.

So who’s approving the patents?

Consider a few explanations in this Forbes piece about why patents in the pharmaceutical industry are completely out of control. 

“Drug companies, often deploying individuals and patient groups affected by a disease as their advocates, have pushed for expedited approval for new medications. But if we want to help people and make healthcare more affordable, we need an even more rapid process for approval of bio-similars and generics.

I know all about these patient “advocates” because as a reporter for Healthline I ran into many of them.

Sadly, the healthcare industry is woefully greedy and woefully corrupt.

“Patents were originally intended to encourage innovators and maximize the greater good. But today that privilege is being abused,” the Forbes piece continues. “When it comes to the drug industry today, the rewards for pharmaceutical companies exceed the benefits to our nation. Hopefully, Congress and the new president will restore the proper balance.”

Click here to find out who sits on the patent committee in Congress. 

Meantime, even more medical research saying cannabis helps with pain

The writing would make any stoner laugh.

In a JAMA meta-analysis released today, authors from Syracuse examined 18 studies using placebo and “experimental pain,” or manmade pain. But in many cases they also used manmade marijuana in pill form.

Nowhere are terpenes discussed, the compounds in marijuana that convey aroma an medicinal affect beyond THC and CBD.

Further, the THC levels used in all 18 experiments are extraordinarily low.

Reluctantly, the author concludes (try not to laugh at the second sentence beginning ‘Instead … ‘)

“Meta-analyses revealed that although the cannabinoids examined in this review may prevent the onset of laboratory-induced pain by increasing pain thresholds, they do not appear to reduce the intensive of experimental pain that is already being experienced. Instead, these substances make experimental pain feel less unpleasant and more tolerable, suggesting a notable influence on affective processes.”

So you’re not in less pain when you smoke pot. It’s just less unpleasant pain.

😉

In many states, people suffering from pain can obtain high-level THC-CBD marijuana products, legally, and in the form of consumption of their choice. There are smokes, edibles, creams, lotions, coffees, tinctures, patches, just about everything you can think of.

And there are strains specific to pain alleviation That’s a blog for me to possibly work on tomorrow.

Read more: 10 Medical Cannabis Strains Sure to Help you or Someone you care about Relieve PTSD Symptoms

Never forget that the United States government holds the patent on CBD, by the way. The Denver Post’s Cannabist will tell you all about it right here. 

Until next time.

 

 

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