In 1943, penicillin-at-cost (at least so claimed Big Pharma and no one ever asked for or got firm proof as to their accuracy) was sold to the US government for $20 per 100,000 units .
The most meaningful way to describe the effect on a family's budget in 1943, if they had had the chance to actually buy the stuff, is to ask how it would have taken them at work to earn that $20.
In 1943, the median male wage earner took about a week to earn $20, the median female about two weeks.
In today's terms, that meant it would cost about $1000 for that dose of penicillin.
Admittedly, that single dose back then in 1943 saved many a life -cured ! - and they didn't need to have another dose again.
By contrast , today's Avastin is a fairly costly cancer drug that can extend life in some terminal patients , but only for an additional four months on average , and at a potential cost of $100,000 a year and up.
To work, it has to be taken constantly every 2 weeks until the patient either dies of the cancer or of old age.
But there are some bacterial diseases ,then and now, that were invariably fatal unless given enormous seeming doses of penicillin - often the penicillin must being given every few hours, for periods of several months.
Still the cures of even supposedly fatal cases of extraordinarily persistent and antibiotic resistant endocarditis can happen - but it has taken up to a kilo of pure penicillin to do so.
That is equal to 17,000 doses of Penicillin G, each of of 100,000 units in strength !
That is $340,000 in 1943 dollars at 1943 prices and would have taken 340 years for the average male worker back then to pay for it !
But in the 1943 era, the actual maximum amount of penicillin ever give to an endocarditis patient was a still quite hefty 15 million units - costing a median 1943 worker 3 solid years of labour to buy.
Three years work for the median worker today in 2013 is at least $100,000 - IE, the average cost for Avastin patients and or their insurers, private and government.
So in 1943, the miracle drug Penicillin G was as expensive for some patients as Avastin and other miracle cancer drugs are today.
But what is the real current at-cost/ bulk price of 100,000 units of Penicillin G today, in 2013 dollars ?
That would be 2 cents : and would take today's worker not one or two weeks of 40 hour each to pay for it, but rather only about 2 seconds to earn !
Clearly Penicillin G has gone from being the most expensive lifesaver in 1943 to being by far the cheapest lifesaver in 2013 - a lifesaver cheaper than water, a lifesaver too cheap to meter.
The Official History version of why it happens credits those wonderful people at Big Pharma.
If you find that at all credible, you really shouldn't be reading this blog.....