Saturday, February 03, 2007

What is it with Texas?

It's bad enough that Merck is pouring money into state legislator's coffers to try to pass laws that would force grade-school girls to be vaccinated against HPV, ensuring millions and millions of customers for Merck's Gardasil vaccine. The company must be having trouble convincing parents with its big TV campaign for the stuff.

Now the governor of Texas has short-circuited that sleazy process by determining he's the decider and issuing an emergency order for the girls to line up and be guinea pigs for the vaccine, which has been on the market for less than a year.

What's with the corporate welfare, guaranteeing Merck a market? Well, this story suggests "Gardasil is getting used less than doctors would like. Pediatricians and gynecologists from Arizona to New York are refusing to stock Gardasil because of its $360 price for the three doses required and 'totally inadequate' reimbursement from most insurers.

"Pediatricians, in particular, are rebelling, fed up after years of declining insurance reimbursement for vaccines, an explosion of new vaccines and fast-escalating vaccine prices.

"Many practices must tie up $50,000 or more in vaccine inventory, run multiple refrigerators and freezers, insure the vaccines and spend lots of time on inventory management. They also must absorb the cost of broken or wasted vials, and say that's not possible with most insurers reimbursing at just $2 to $15 over the $120 per dose charged by Gardasil's developer, Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station."

Why is the cost of health care so high? One reason is that big companies lobby government to force people to spend on drugs that otherwise would be a matter of informed choice. Some pediatricians will probably throw up their arms at these costs, surrender and get out of the business, which will increase the fees that the remaining pediatricians can charge - supply and demand doncha know.

And what is it with Texas that its governors think they're emperors? If the state legislators down there have any stones whatsoever, they'll perform a quick "no ya don't" on this tinpot dictator. More likely the girls will just line up, hold out their arms, and pray that the vaccine doesn't do them more harm than the disease might have.


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