drug prices

It isn’t a shock that pharmaceutical companies hike prescription prices because they can. The founder and CEO of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals Nirmal Mulye, like Gordon Gekko, views greed as a moral imperative. And if greed is good, then drug companies are on the side of the angels.

The Associated Press is reporting that over the first seven months of 2018, for every prescription price cut, there were 96 hikes in drug prices. This is despite President Trump pledging to rein in Big Pharma and promising that “massive” cuts in drug prices would follow. That’s actually not the most shocking fact.

The most shocking fact is that actually represents an improvement. The hikes weren’t as steep as in past years, AP found.

And the real-world impact of these price hikes should be immediately obvious — people can’t afford to stay healthy and safe. For instance, 45 percent of people with diabetes have gone without treatment because of exorbitant costs of critical drugs like insulin.

“I am not counting on the altruism of pharma companies lowering their prices,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former senior executive at Eli Lilly.

Using information from health analytics firm Elsevier, AP reviewed changes in drug prices from January 1 to July 31 from 2015 to 2018. The AP found 4,412 brand-name drug price increases and 46 price cuts this year was actually fewer hikes than in the same span of time in earlier years, making 2018 comparatively mild.

As for Trump’s promise of massive price cuts for prescriptions? AP found that in the following two months there were 395 price increases and only 24 decreases. That’s more than 16-to-1. Maybe that’s why only 23 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of prescription prices.

“The current era of medicine is all about profit generation,” wrote Dr. Robert Pearl, one of Modern Healthcare’s 50 most influential physician leaders. “So, you can be certain Mr. Mulye’s quote doesn’t merely reflect the misguided morals of one greedy CEO. His words underpin the mentality of an entire industry.”

The palpable outrage of Americans is having an impact. The slowed growth of prices that the AP noticed comes frommedia coverage, the political pressure from patients advocacy groups and the fall of disgraced executive Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli, according to Elsevier drug pricing expert Kay Morgan.

“It’s everyone saying, ‘This has got to stop,’ ” she said.

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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