Introduction by Michael
The purpose of this article is to show that there is an extremely
high profit in the sales of Serostim human growth hormone (GH), which places
Serostim out of the reach of most HIV(+) people. Note
that while Serostim costs about $6,000 to $7,000 per month, bovine (cow) GH,
which costs about the same to manufacture, is priced at about $20.00 per month
I believe that many HIV(+) people suffer from deficient GH
function, and that correction of this deficiency would improve overall health.
Although its effect is not that of a "cure," GH, used in appropriate
individually tailored replacement doses of approximately 0.5 mg to 3 mg per
day, appears to be an important part of the cocktail that can decrease the potential
for and perhaps reverse the bodyfat redistribution syndrome that is known as
lipodystrophy. I advocate easier access to growth hormone for HIV(+) people
who need it, but at this time its pricing and politics limit access to only
those few people whose insurance coverage will pay for it. If Serono would alter
(reduce) their current pricing policy and improve their patient assistance program
to be more user-friendly, many more HIV(+) people would be able to access GH
for more optimal quality of life and overall health.
Kickbacks for Serostim Growth Hormone
by Michael Mooney (January, 1999)
Two years ago AIDS activists did the best they could to arrive
at an agreement with Serono that the price of Serostim growth hormone would
be capped at $36,000 per year. However, the idea of a "cap" is virtually meaningless
in the true scheme of things. For one thing, does this mean that a person can
use Serostim each month for a year and it will really only cost $36,000? Not
likely. If an insurance company will actually agree to pay the real cost of
$6,000 to $7,000 per month, the person will be lucky to get the prescription
filled for any longer than three months. Only a very few people find that their
insurance plan allows them to have Serostim for twelve full months, and then
it costs over $70,000. This is a dirty little secret, so don't believe it if
you're told otherwise.
The other awful truth about the Serostim rip-off is the fact
that there is enough profit in Serostim sales that doctors and others are being
paid a $600 dollars per month "finder's fee" for each Serostim prescription
they refer. This is paid to the "finder" as a kickback by some of the more aggressive
pharmacies. I can tell you from first hand experience that I have been offered
this deal, and that several well-known doctors are making extra Mercedes money
taking advantage of this extra perk when they write Serostim prescriptions.
The reality is that there's a lot of profit built into each high-ticket Serostim
sale. I was taken out to dinner and given all the details about this last summer
in an aggressive recruitment effort that's offered by one of the big pharmacies
to people who can have an influence on patient's decisions.
With the PoWeR national question hotline under my auspices I
was told that I could make lots of money being the "gatekeeper" to their pharmacy
for lots of Serostim prescriptions. I was also told that Serono, the manufacturer
of Serostim growth hormone is not directly involved in this program, as it's
specifically illegal for them to do so. However, they assured me that there
is so much extra profit in the sales of Serostim that Serono doesn't have to
dirty its hands. The pharmacies that participate in this kind of plan have plenty
of extra fat to spread around, so they can afford to grease the hands of anyone
who can give them more business.
Of course I couldn't go along with it because I'd be lying if
I told HIV(+) people that growth hormone is as anabolic as steroids. While growth
hormone has a place in the total picture, it has much less effect on increasing
muscle tissue for HIV(+) people than anabolic steroids, and its price is predatory.
During the dinner I learned the names of some well-known doctors and nutritionists
who are making lots of extra spending cash with this deal. So next time some
advisor or doctor recommends that you start using Serostim and tells you where
to fill your prescription, remember, Serostim isn't the best drug to build lean
body mass, and your limited insurance money is being eaten up paying for some
rich person's new Lamborghini.