FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?

by

It is no secret that the pill profit party is over for drug companies. Bestselling pills like Lipitor, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Singular, Concerta, Cymbalta and Abilify have gone off patent and Wall Street is moving on to industries that offer better returns.

To combat investor disenchantment, drug companies have rolled out expensive drugs that treat such rare conditions,  they almost sound like satire. If you are sleepy during the day, you may have narcolepsy says Jazz Pharmaceuticals which its drug Xyrem treats for $35,000 per year.  If you have frequent diarrhea, gas and bloating, you may have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency says AbbVie to sell the drug Creon.

Drug makers are even not above scaring the populace if it sells drugs for rare diseases. Your back pain may not be from working out at all but from a disease called ankylosing spondylitis, says AbbVie, a condition that can be treated with its biologic drug Humira for as much as $20,000 a year. (Injectable “biologic” drugs are a new drug industry push because they are so expensive and less susceptible to generic competition than pills.)

The drug industry is also trying to stay a Wall Street darling with new, uber priced drugs—notably hepatitis C drugs. Gilead Sciences sold $12.4 billion worth of Sovaldi at $1000 a pill last year, reports the New York Timesstraining the budgets of insurance companies and Medicaid programs.”

While drug company representatives initially tried to cast the outrageous prices as recouping martharosenbergtheir research and development costs they quickly back pedaled into admitting the drugs are priced on “value”—what they are “worth” for the patient’s health. Needless to say such valuations come pretty close to the definition of extortion—or offers you “can’t refuse.”

Even business writers cry foul. Why does the same hepatitis C drug that costs $84,000 a year in the US cost $900 a year in Egypt asked Forbes staff writer Avik Roy. Since most hepatitis C patients in the US are uninsured, underinsured or imprisoned, taxpayers pick up the bill through Medicaid, the VA and prison systems writes Roy.

Now Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals are rolling out a cholesterol lowering drug which could be embraced by the millions who made the statin Lipitor the best selling drug in the world before it went off patent. Yet the list price of Praluent, an injectable biologic, is over $14,600 a year.  Like Gilead, Sanofi and Regeneron say the price reflects what it is worth in potential benefits to patients and savings to the health care system—e.g. what they can get.

Nor is cost the only question with the new cholesterol drug. Increasingly, high bad cholesterol is viewed as a weak cardiovascular risk factor versus other factors like inflammation. Cholesterol lowering drugs can also be used to duck important lifestyle changes. “Plenty of adults down statins regularly and shine off healthy eating because they know a cheeseburger and steak can’t fool a statin,” writes Dr. Michael J. Breus on the Huffington Post.

Luckily, lawmakers are demanding cost breakdowns from drug companies on the new four-digit priced drugs.  How much are true costs and what is profiteering? Some states are drafting bills that would allow insurers to refuse to pay for a drug if the manufacturer did not file the required cost breakdown reports.

What is the response of drug makers to bills addressing expensive drugs?  They would be costly to comply with, they say.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail