Sorry Mr Pitts, you’re wrong

KEY TAKEAWAY: Peter Pitts, in an Op-Ed entitled “To cut drug prices, start with the facts” wrote “many lawmakers believe that prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. They’re not. In fact, after accounting for all the rebates and discounts manufacturers offer, drug prices have barely budged in recent years. Drug spending grew just 1.3 percent in 2016, according to the latest federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Overall health spending increased by 4.3 percent.  Sorry, but in these statistics are some very disturbing trends,

The Presidnt’s Cancer Panel just released a report “Promoting Value, Affordability, and Innovation in Cancer Drug Treatment” and it has some great information on the cost of cancer treatments.

I quote from the Executive Summary page:

“[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The recent, dramatic rise in drug prices is straining patient, health system, and societal resources[/inlinetweet]. Drugs account for about 20 percent of the total costs of cancer care in the United States, but [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]cancer drug costs are accelerating faster than costs for other components of care.[/inlinetweet] Launch prices of [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]cancer drugs in the United States have risen so steeply over the past few decades that they have quickly outpaced growth in household incomes.[/inlinetweet] U.S. patients and their insurers are paying more than ever for cancer drugs—$54,100 for a year of life in 1995 compared with $207,000 in 2013. Unfortunately, there are no signs that this price escalation is slowing”.

“The burden of high drug costs for patients—even those with health insurance—can be significant. Out-of-pocket spending on drugs can be hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a month for patients in active treatment. Patients with higher out-of-pocket expenses are less likely to adhere to recommended treatment regimens, which may have a detrimental impact on outcomes.”

“Like medical toxicities caused by cancer treatment,[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] financial toxicity can impose a significant burden on patients, including a diminished quality of life, interference with high- quality care delivery, and even a reduction in survival rates.[/inlinetweet]”

The survey, by NCHS researchers Robin A. Cohen and Maria A. Villarroel, found that about [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]8% of adult Americans don’t take their medicines as prescribed because they can’t afford them.[/inlinetweet] Insurance coverage often influenced this money-saving strategy. Among younger adults (those under age 65), 6% who had private insurance skipped medicines to save money, compared to 10% for those with Medicaid and 14% of those with no insurance. Among the poorest adults — those with incomes well below the federal poverty level — nearly 14% did not take medications as prescribed to save money.

In addition, a recent story by ProPublica said “Drug makers have raised prices on treatments for life-threatening or chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer. In turn, insurers have shifted more of those costs onto consumers. Saddled with high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that expose them to a drug’s rising list price, many people are paying thousands of dollars a month merely to survive.

“In the United States, three manufacturers dominate the insulin market — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — and a recent study found that prices nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013.The drug makers have been accused of price-fixing in several patient lawsuits, and several states are investigating.In response, the companies have rolled out programs, such as one through CVS Health, that reduce costs for the uninsured or those with high-deductible coverage. Despite the uproar, all three manufacturers raised their list prices again in 2017, according to the Gold Standard Drug Database from Elsevier, an information analytics company.”

Then, according to Jama [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]”Per capita prescription drug spending in the United States exceeds that in all other countries, largely driven by brand-name drug prices that have been increasing in recent years at rates far beyond the consumer price index[/inlinetweet]. In 2013, per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized nations. In the United States, prescription medications now comprise an estimated 17% of overall personal health care services.

I respect Peter Pitts but he is yelling words that nobody wants to hear.  He might be better served listening to people talk about their struggles to afford Rx medication than to be a promoter of PhRMA propaganda.