Drug companies spend millions to keep charging high prices
Of course, drug companies must charge high prices to cover their lobbying expenses. David Lazarus writes in the LA Times:
Pharmaceutical heavyweight Mylan, the latest poster child for drug-industry greed, finally stuck up for itself Thursday. It argued that “the system,” not avarice, was to blame for the company jacking up the price of EpiPens, a common (and life-saving) allergy remedy, by over 400%.
“Look, no one’s more frustrated than me,” Mylan Chief Executive Heather Bresch declared on CNBC.
Actually, millions of people — those with chronic medical conditions or other illnesses — are more frustrated than her. [And, I’ll point out, if the high price is so damn frustrating to her, she has the power as CEO to lower the price. Probably didn’t occur to her. – LG]
Despite Mylan’s offer Thursday of discount coupons for some EpiPen users, the only system at work here is a cash-fat industry routinely preying on sick people. It’s a system that the drug industry will do whatever’s necessary to protect.
Of roughly $250 million raised for and against 17 ballot measures coming before California voters in November, more than a quarter of that amount — about $70 million — has been contributed by deep-pocketed drug companies to defeat the state’s Drug Price Relief Act.
Contributions aimed at killing the initiative are on track to be the most raised involving a single ballot measure since 2001, the earliest year for which online data are available, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics.
The Drug Price Relief Act would make prescription drugs more affordable for people in Medi-Cal and other state programs by requiring that California pay no more than what’s paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It would, in other words, protect state taxpayers from being ripped off.
Industry donations to crush the Drug Price Relief Act “will top $100 million by the election, I’m quite certain of it,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a leading backer of the state measure, also known as Proposition 61. “They see this as the apocalypse for their business model.”
The drug industry already has succeeded in eviscerating Senate Bill 1010, legislation in Sacramento that would have required pharmaceutical companies to detail the costs of producing medicine and explain any price increases. The bill’s author, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), pulled it from consideration last week after industry lobbyists succeeded in watering it down with business-friendly provisions.
Mylan’s money-grubbing approach to EpiPens is only the latest example of a drug company mercilessly putting the squeeze on patients.
EpiPens are a decades-old way of delivering epinephrine, a hormone that counters the potentially fatal effects of severe allergic reactions to things such as bee stings and peanuts. There’s about a dollar’s worth of epinephrine in each EpiPen, to which Mylan acquired the rights in 2007 and proceeded to steadily impose double-digit price hikes.
But don’t forget Gilead Sciences charging $1,000 a pill for its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi. Or Turing Pharmaceuticals, which purchased rights to a well-established parasite drug used by AIDS and cancer patients and promptly raised the price by 5,000%.
A recent Reuters investigation found that prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs have more than doubled since 2011, with the remaining six jumping in price by at least 50%.
“It’s like being held hostage,” Weinstein told me. “The public’s hatred of this industry is an incredible thing. They create life-saving drugs, but, because of their greed, people can’t afford them. What good is a life-saving drug if you can’t get it?” . . .