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What if a band-aid cost $345?


Donald Trump doesn’t even care that I can’t afford a massive dose of Viagra.  I don’t really know that but it looks like the most reliable way to get his attention is to publicly insult him.  He invariably takes the bait and nothing is more public than this newspaper.

One symptom of pulmonary fibrosis is pulmonary hypertension.  Fibrosis constricts your arteries and makes your heart work harder to pump blood through your lungs. You don’t want that for your lungs or your heart.

The currently favored drug to open the arteries in your lungs, or any body part that might work better with increased blood flow, is Viagra.  My pulmonologist actually said a “massive dose of Viagra,” and then prescribed it.

We live in a world today where no one has the sense to be embarrassed about anything so I figured it was alright if I showed up at the local pharmacy to pick up a massive dose of Viagra, despite some anxiety about advertised possible side effects.  I wore my portable oxygen generator so they could easily understand my legitimate G-rated need for this drug.

At a dosage of three a day, my month’s supply was priced at $1,639.  I was just as unwilling as my insurance company to pay for the Viagra benefits as touted in television ads.  I tearfully explained that I was only hoping to reduce my level of pulmonary hypertension. The pharmacist said that insurance companies would sometimes make an exception if the attending physician verified that the drug was treating pulmonary hypertension as a primary symptom. If, however, pulmonary hypertension is instead just a secondary symptom of fibrosis, then they may not pay.

If they decide they needn’t pay because no field testing has shown that Viagra will be effective in this precise set of circumstances then I’ll need to pay.

You are right to wonder why on earth I would discuss all this here. I just thought you’d judge me more kindly when you see me at a busy corner holding up the “Will work for Viagra” cardboard.  Passersby might be more giving if they knew I needed it for breath support rather than recreation. The same is probably true of a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign for financing Viagra.

I thank you in advance. You are already buying for me a newish drug called Esbriet.  It is in the $90,000-a-year range and my co-pay so far has been zero.  Insurance is hard to understand.  Esbriet is only marginally helpful.

If the price of a band-aid was suddenly raised to $345 the American discussion would be about how we can afford the subsequent rise in insurance premiums rather than challenging the cost of a band-aid.  Dr. Kitzhaber has been trying to explain that for years.

Sometimes obscure diseases are brought to light when a very famous actor or sports hero steps up to advocate for research and funding.  Not so with Viagra. Who’s going to buy a team jersey or spend money watching a first run movie featuring some poor schlub who needs Viagra?

Thus I need to provoke the president so he’ll pressure Big Pharma into reducing the cost of this drug.  So, tweet this Mr. President.  Real men need Viagra and can’t afford it.   Clearly the problem is inflation.

(Don Vowell gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)