Extraordinary Measures

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My column on the cover page of today's LA Times health section is about the film Extraordinary Measures, a fictionalized version of the book by WSJ reporter Geeta Anand which details the discovery of a replacement enzyme for the severe neuromuscular disease Pompe disease.

The treatment is lifesaving, and its creation was quite dramatic and involved the best we have in the U.S. in terms of science and business. The new drug, known as an "orphan drug" because it treats a rare disease, is very expensive, ranging from $50,000 a year for infants to $400,000 a year for adults. There are production problems and distribution problems, and mostly, there are reimbursement problems, because most insurance companies won't cover it.

So how will this problem be addressed if we extend low quality on-size-fits-all insurance to millions more people? In my opinion it won't be. It is exactly this kind of high tech state of the art treatment that will be in grave jeopardy. A collision of cultures: technology and insurance.

Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com