Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Veterans Administration Ending Hepatitis C Treatments

There is something going on at the Veterans Hospital that is making me angry. It should damn well make you angry too! The Republican driven budget cuts to the warriors of our nation are having deadly effect NOW!  It is a betrayal of our citizen soldiers. Let me explain.

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a dangerous illness that kills many people by attacking the cells of their liver. After a number of years, and with no symptoms, HCV can cause cirrhosis and cancer of the liver, leading to an untimely and painful death. This is a blood born illness, and can only be transmitted by blood to blood contact. Being such, our military have a higher incidence of HCV than the general population. Also it is suspected that many thousands of troops were inadvertently infected with HCV as a result of the use of Jet Guns for inoculations.

Jet Gun Injection
I had hepatitis C. The Veterans Hospital helped me rid my body of that horrible virus. It wasn't easy either. I had to take a combination of antiviral drugs called Ribavirin and Interferon. The side effects were hell on Earth, but it did cure me after a grueling 48 week treatment. People have it much better now a days. There is a new drug that is way more effective, takes less time, and with less side effects to cure people of HCV. That miracle drug is Sovaldi.

There seems to be a big problem with this drug even with its amazing effectiveness. It has a super high cost. In the United States, Sovaldi costs $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a typical 12-week course of treatment. Our government was able to pull off a deal with the makers of this drug, Gilead Sciences. They are only charging the VA $540 per pill. That still translates to $45,360 for one drug to treat one veteran for hepatitis C. That doesn't even account for the other drugs that must be taken along with Sovaldi, or the other services that must be rendered.

Now we have Republicans, who don't care one iota for veterans except as a tool to secure oil, cutting money to care for them. Then while leaving our Vets hanging, they offer huge tax cuts to the richest people in our civilization. The very people, who the Vets helped to get all those billions of dollars, paid super-Pacs to influence congress to do this despicable thing. This is a slap in the face of the veterans, and now the effects are becoming evident.

I met with a friend who wanted to tell me something yesterday. It had to do with this issue. This person, who asked not to be identified, is directly involved with the Veterans Administration Hepatitis C program. I was told by them that the VA is cutting the Hepatitis C program because it can no longer be afforded. So my big question is, why is it that Gilead Sciences, for the very same drug, sells it for less than $1,800 for a 24-week course of treatment in India? I don't want anyone in India to suffer, but they aren't any more deserving than our Veterans. They didn't put their lives on the line so companies like Gilead Sciences can be free to operate. So why do they get special treatment, and our Veterans get a boot in the ass?

This isn't a freaken game here! People, our warriors, are going to die from liver cancer and/or other complications of HCV because of the Republican zeal to serve their corporate masters. I'll tell you as a Veteran. I would rather a bomb hit me point blank in battle, than to be taken by some minuscule speck. To be taken by some viral agent years after the battle has ended is like sweet revenge for the enemy. That enrages me. It should you too!

A lot of the time when I am at the VA, I meet homeless Veterans. I met one yesterday that struck a cord in me. He was sitting there on the bench looking like he had been homeless for a while. I doubt he was any older than 25. He had a bottle of hot sauce it looked like, and was putting some in his hand and licking it. After a few minutes he asked me if I could spare some change so he could get some chips. I emptied all I had in my pockets of change for him. We talked for a bit too.

I asked him about himself, and also asked if he had ever heard of Bernie Sanders. When I meet a homeless person, and especially when a Vet I tell them of Bernie Sanders. I ask them to register to vote and vote for our man Bernie because it is these very same people who need the help the most. Getting those jobs back from China and Vietnam and the other places, along with the other things we'll do with Bernie Sanders will help get homeless people back the jobs they deserve to have as Americans. There is a vast ocean of voters out there in the homeless and dispossessed. Don't ignore them. Embrace them as the brothers and sisters they are. As American as any one of you, and just as deserving of a fair break.

The young, homeless Veteran I talked to told me he has hepatitis C. He found out when he was donating blood plasma for money, as so many homeless people do. Now that he is a known carrier of HCV he will never be able to give plasma, therefore he loses a vital, and maybe last stream of cash available to him. I know this stuff is true because the same thing happened to me. If it wasn't for food stamps I would of starved, but that is another issue, but still connected.

I don't know how the young Veteran became homeless, and I didn't ask. All I knew was that there was a young citizen warrior on the ropes. Someone who just like me only a few years ago, desperately needed help. I got the impression he wasn't informed as to the help he can get, so I told him to get in there and see the doctor. I told him of how they cured me of HCV, and the other things the VA did to help me survive. While telling him of the things he could take advantage of, I seen something that was wonderful. I seen hope.

Damn it guys! If one of our fellows is sitting there homeless on a bench, eating hot sauce because that is all he has left, Veteran or not we have a moral obligation to help them. It is not a choice to make. It is a requirement.

The Republican Party, and billionaires like the Koch brothers, have betrayed our people, and our Veterans. They have purposefully, and for greedy purpose conspired to withhold from the people their birthright as Americans. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness seems to be something that only a part of our society is allowed. If a poor man like myself can empty out his pockets for a homeless brother sitting on a bench eating hot sauce, billionaires and millionaires can help take care of our fellows too!

Support Bernie Sanders for President. Register to vote if you haven't already, then vote for Democratic Senators and Congresspersons. Write, or call your representatives in government and demand that this Republican caused nightmare for our Veterans be stopped, and that the Veterans Administration's Hepatitis C program, and the others be fully funded. Urge our people in government to use 28 USC 1498 to force Gilead Sciences to stop gouging our nation to care for her Vets. Get angry! Get proactive!