Prescription drug prices are out of cotrol

KEY POINTS:

  • About three in ten adults report not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost. This includes about one in five who report that they have not filled a prescription or took an over-the counter drug instead, and about one in ten who say they have cut pills in half or skipped a dose.
  • The public sees profits made by pharmaceutical companies as the largest factor contributing to the price of prescription drugs. About eight in ten across partisans say profits made by pharmaceutical companies are a “major factor” in the price of prescription drugs.
  • The May 2021 KFF Health Tracking Poll finds about two-thirds of adults say there is “not as much regulation as there should be” when it comes to limiting the price of prescription drugs.
  • There are proposals to allow the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications that would apply to both Medicare and private insurance and the KFF Health Tracking Poll finds majorities support this proposal, regardless of party identification

Source: Public Opinion on Prescription Drugs and Their Prices, Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues. KFF.org

The pharma industry has been riding a wave of public approval since they developed a vaccine to fight COVID-19, but that goodwill is going to be short lived thanks, in part, to the $56,000 price tag of Biogen’s new drug and insulin that too many people still can’t afford. But let’s be transparent here: pharma could care less what the public thinks about them. Their feeling is that “patients need us more than we need them.” This is one reason why implementing a patient-focused program that doesn’t have an ROI has a hard time getting through management.

The biggest issue that the public has with pharma is the continued price increases of branded medications along the certain pharma companies using the patent maze to keep competitors’ products off the market. But changes are coming; it’s only a matter of time.

West Health/Gallup survey finds nearly all Democrats (97%) and most Republicans (61%) support empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices of brand-name prescription drugs covered by Medicare. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans prefer major government action to control prices over concerns about hurting innovation and competition from the pharmaceutical industry. The results come from a nationally representative poll of more than 3,700 American adults.

Even people who are insured have issues. According to JAMA “more than half of patients pay deductibles or coinsurance and may experience substantial increases in out-of-pocket spending when drug prices increase. Among these patients, there was no evidence that manufacturer rebates to insurers are associated with patients’ out-of-pocket spending. Policies to rein in unregulated annual increases in list prices for brand-name drugs may have important consequences for patient out-of-pocket spending”.

What about pharma’s argument about innovation?

Every time Congress debates doing something about drug prices, the industry—and the advocacy groups it funds—vociferously returns to the point that lower prices will thwart innovative research but that’s pure bullshit.

Americans should stop buying the pharmaceutical industry’s argument that innovation and new drug development will dry up if the government uses its purchasing power and bargains to get a better deal. The United States spends more per capita than any other wealthy nation for prescription drugs — often the same drugs available for far less overseas. And while taxpayer dollars play a key role in funding innovation, the pharmaceutical industry enjoys profits that are almost double the average of companies in the S&P 500. We can have lower prices as well as innovation according to The New York Times, David E. Mitchell 

Drug prices in the United States are extreme. Many drugs cost more than $120,000 a year. A few are even closing in on $1 million. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that Americans spent more than $460 billion on drugs—16.7 percent of total health-care spending—in 2016, the last year for which there are definitive data. On average, citizens of other rich countries spend 56 percent of what Americans spend on the exact same drug.

After accounting for the costs of all research—about $80 billion a year—drug companies had $40 billion more from the top 20 drugs alone, all of which went straight to profits, not research. More excess profit comes from the next 100 or 200 brand-name drugs.

The Atlantic · Ezekiel J. Emanuel 

Working families and seniors are struggling to pay for the high cost of often life-saving medicines, and have been for years. Anyone who’s filled a prescription lately knows drug prices are out of control. Prices for scores of top drugs have shot up nearly nine times faster than inflationover the past dozen years. And it’s not because the drugs are getting better. Prices of some of the most-prescribed medicines — familiar names like Humira, Lyrica and Truvada — have increased by up to roughly a third, despite no evidence of improved quality.

 The 10 biggest American ones — the Pharma Big 10 — racked up almost $69 billion in worldwide profits on over $330 billion in sales. Big Pharma’s profit margin of 15% to 20% is about three times higher than the average across the largest 500 companies across all industries. Pharma CEO salaries are in the stratosphere and still climbing.

Pharma’s primary customers is Wall Street. It will alway be that way until a brave, new leader steps forward to focus on patients once again.