SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Trevor Foltz was six months old last fall, fresh off a visit to Disney World in Orlando, when the spasms first began.
Healthy until that point in his life, he began thrusting backward in his car seat, repeatedly and forcefully, as he rode with his parents north toward home in Rhode Island. “I thought it was temper tantrums,” says his mother, Danielle. The next day, at home, Trevor was hit with a series of 40 convulsions and rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with infantile spasms, a rare form of epilepsy. Treatment would cost $1,600 per vial of steroid drug H.P. Acthar Gel, and Trevor would need three of them.
As if the idea of a $4,800 tab wasn’t bad enough, when the Foltzes submitted their claim, they found out the company that made the drug, Questcor Pharmaceuticals, had just recently jacked up the price—to $23,000 per vial, or $69,000 for a three-vial treatment—and the insurance company wasn’t going to pay. And all the while, unbeknownst to anyone at that time, an alternative, for $15, existed.
On Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee will open hearings in Congress on dramatic price hikes for drugs used to treat children, with a focus on companies such as Questcor and Ovation Pharmaceuticals, which in 2006 bought rights to a drug that treats heart problems in premature infants, and increased the price 1,800 percent to $1,875 per three-vial treatment.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”