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Almost 2 1/2 years ago I wrote a post titled Why Prescription Drug Costs Are So High. I walked through the steps of how these things come to market, and it’s a pretty comprehensive list. I hope you check that out because, unless you already understand the process, you might not understand the rest of what I’m going to share here.

Ebola Virus Particles
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Two weeks ago the big story in the U.S. was having an American who’d contracted Ebola frown from Africa to Atlanta for treatment. That seemed scary enough, but what was amazing is that whatever they gave this person they started to recover from it to the point where the patient, a physician, was able to hold a press conference. This led to the question of why, if there was a drug available that could cure this nasty disease, why wasn’t it being sent to Africa to take care of these people.

I’m going to tell you why. The reason… costs. Now I’m going to explain.

It costs a lot to bring pharmaceuticals to market. One of the things that’s calculate by drug companies is about how much money they can make on that drug. That calculation takes into account all the research, the papers, paying for salaries of those who have to create it, whether insurance companies will pay for it, can they get grants from the government, and just how large the population is that might possibly consume it. That’s a bunch isn’t it?

Truthfully, there have been drugs created that could cure plenty of things that happen to people that never make it out of the lab. They do get tested on a population because science is science, but often that’s as far as it goes. If a profit can’t be made, that’s that. Sure, most of us believe there should be a moral imperative at work, but that’s just not how things are done. Business is business, and if corporations can’t at least recoup their investment, they’re not going to put any real money into it.

This brings up Ebola. True, the World Health Organization recently stated that there’s a real crisis with the reemergence of Ebola. And it can be a deadly disease; it’s one of the scariest diseases ever, and if you want to know about it, check out the book The Hot Zone (this links to the Wikipedia page), which I read in the mid 90′s.

No one knows when it’ll pop up or where it’ll pop up, and it can spread fast. But when compared to many other diseases the numbers are low. Before this year, there had never been 1,000 people in Africa diagnosed with it. Through July this year that number is up around 1,300. That pales in comparison to even the flu, which confirms around 75,000 people a year in the U.S. alone, although its mortality rate is much lower (Ebola can be between 50% and 90% of its victims).

This isn’t a philosophical discussion of the merits of why the drug should or should not be dosed out to countries that need it. Instead, it’s a look at the money, which everything in the world is based on. If you want to relate it to something in the United States, look at HIV drugs which, when Magic Johnson was diagnosed, could cost as much as $15,000 a month for treatment, and even though it’s still pretty high, now offers more options that range between $2,000 and $5,000 a month because there’s a lot more people who had it, though, because the numbers have come down, could start the costs of obtaining them could potentially rise.
 

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The devil that basically hurt the U.S. economy is finding its way back. I’m not sure if it’s collusion or fear or just being sneaky but interest rates and loans are playing a symbiotic game that got us in trouble again, and I hope most people will have learned the lessons from the past so they don’t go there again.

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What’s up? First, in many places interest rates are skyrocketing again. People without great credit scores are being hit with interest rates as high as 25% in trying to purchase things like cars, and some people across the country who have found a financial base again and are trying to purchase homes are encountering interest rates in the double digits.

The antidote being given is to offer floating, adjustable interest rates again, which is what brought the housing industry down in many states and led to record foreclosures. I have to admit that looks attractive right now at 3.25%, but only those with the best credit reports are getting that rate. For others, if they qualify at all, it’s going to be much higher, which means higher payments at the very least.

I get it; banks are scared, and they should be. I also get this, that banks had been denying many people loans out of fear of getting hammered by people defaulting on loans like they had been recently doing but then they realized that they weren’t bringing in any new business, credit card business was stalling, and they had to do something.

I also get the other side, consumers who had been in dire straits now having money again, even if it’s not as much as before, and still wanting and needing some of those large creature comforts. I mean, outside of New York City and maybe Los Angeles how many of us can easily get around without a car?

Something else that’s happening, moreso from used car dealers, is fudging numbers on loan applications so people can qualify for cars they shouldn’t be able to purchase. A recent New York Times story highlighted a guy who hadn’t worked since 1991 and was on Social Security who told the people at the dealership this but they put down on the application that he earned $35,000 a year and got the loan, only to have the vehicle repossessed a few months later when he couldn’t make the payments. The reality has always been that many people fudge their income numbers here and there, but to have someone else do it for the consumer… that’s scary.

Consumers need to be smart and take care of themselves because the banks, dealerships, etc, don’t care about them; they only care about making money. You need to get set rates for things you buy, and then you need to calculate whether you can afford the payments or not.

If not, find another alternative until you can afford it. Trust me, it’s better to have to take a bus to work and maybe pay a friend gas money to take you to the store once or twice a week than to go into debt, default on loans you can’t pay and, possibly, file for bankruptcy. And these days, if you’ve already filed, you could get charged with fraud; talk about scary.
 

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You’re probably wondering what the topic of recycling has to do with finances. Truth be told, a lot. We all know that recycling is good for our ecology. Those of us who live in states where we get charged for items like soda but can get 5 cents back if we return those bottles know that there’s an economic byproduct of doing so.

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At the same time, there are things we buy that maybe we shouldn’t because it’s bad for our environment, and maybe money can be saved by going in another direction. It’s at least something to think about.

There are things that we can reuse over and over again. When you think about it, even if you buy something that’s not biodegradable, and therefore isn’t a great candidate for recycling, that doesn’t mean that maybe you can’t reuse that item in some fashion.

For instance, are you someone who buys big packages of bottled water? These days, you see a lot of advertisements frowning on people buying bottled water, saying that the plastic the water comes in isn’t always the best to break down and reuse again. That, plus the fact that not all bottled water is anything more special than just tap water.

Usually a pack of water comes with anywhere from 24 to 30 bottles. Why not just reuse all those bottles instead of buying more packages? You pretty much only have to rinse them out and fill them up with more water, put them in the refrigerator and you’re good to go.

I do that with soda bottles, the sturdy ones. I have 18 of them in my refrigerator and I use them over and over until they start getting a bit soft. Then I put them in a plastic bag that my wife returns to get the deposit and start over again. Look at the money I save by not buying bottled water.

Do you get plastic or paper when you go the grocery store? Most people get plastic because it’s easier to carry the plastic bags than it is to carry paper. Paper is better as far as recycling goes, but you can find multiple uses for the plastic bags in your own home.

For instance, if you have a lot of wires sitting in a drawer, you could straighten up that drawer by putting all those wires in a bag. Then go through that door and see what other things you have that you can bunch together and put in a bag. You can make your drawer look better, and make it easier to find things are looking for.

What about things such as shoe boxes or other boxes of similar size? Those are good candidates for recycling, but you can also use those things for storage as well as you can use the plastic bags. As a matter of fact, if you ever hire an organizer that’s something that they’re going to ask you if you have to help you with your record-keeping.

Finally, think about jars. I’m not one of those people who likes to use jars as glasses, but I have been known to take jars with twist on tops, and use them to store things such as screws, money, or any other little things that accumulate. Not only does it make it easier to put everything together, but that you can see through it you always know what it is. True, jars are glass and glass is a great item to recycle, but if you can find a way to use certain glass jars and you’re basically doing your own recycling, and that’s a good thing.

What other ways can you think about that recycles and saves money at the same time?
 

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