FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

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.

More articles by:

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).

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail