Pharma can’t avoid the anger of the media

IN SUMMARY: Over the last week, pharma has been blamed for the high cost of healthcare while PBM’s and insurers seem to protected by Teflon. A courageous politician would stand up and admit that our whole healthcare system is to blame, but it’s easier to unite voters against “big pharma.”

A favorite storyline for the news media right now is to talk about how rising insulin prices are putting lives at risk. While it’s true that the high cost of insulin needs to be investigated, it’s also true that both Lilly and Novo have programs to help people pay for insulin they can’t afford. When I asked a couple on social media why they haven’t used these programs, their response was they didn’t know about them.

The number one call to the American Cancer Society Hotline is “I can’t afford to have cancer.” In fact, 40% of people spend their life savings within 2 years of diagnosis.

Four years ago when I had a crash on my bike in Boston, I was hit with a laundry list of expenses not covered by insurance including a charge of twenty-five dollars for a daily multi-vitamin. It’s not uncommon for patients, who visit an ER, to get hit with thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

You could cut insurance premiums in half AND insure 5 million more Americans fully offset if you just bump the corporate tax rate from 21% back up to 23-24%

I have made a point, on this site, to also talk about the profits and executive compensation of insurance companies. To say they are off the charts is a huge understatement.

Then there are Americans unhealthy lifestyles

Treating cancer patients who smoke may cost extra $3.4 billion each year. The added cost largely stems from additional treatments needed after continuing smokers fail to respond to first-line cancer therapies, and totals roughly $11,000 per person, the study team calculates. 

While smoking cessation after a cancer diagnosis has been found to improve survival odds, studies to date have not provided a clear picture of how treatment outcomes and costs are affected when smokers don’t quit, researchers note in JAMA Network Open.

According to STAT News “In terms of risk factors, being overweight or obese accounted for $1.7 trillion, or 47 percent of the total cost. Approximately 8.7 percent of health-care spending in the U.S. is attributable to cigarette smoking; 60 percent of that is paid by public sources — Medicare, Medicaid, and other U.S. federal and state health programs. Health problems caused by excessive drinking cost $27.4 billion in 2010, or 1 percent of the total cost of chronic diseases and 11 percent of the total costs of alcohol abuse.

big pharma, 3D rendering, a red stop sign

If we are serious about controlling healthcare costs we need to look at the whole system, not just pharma companies. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and blame pharma but doing so does a huge disservice to the public who are scared to death that a chronic illness could wipe out savings.