Pharmaceutical companies have been notoriously price-gouging. The recent scandal centered around the ridiculously inflated cost of Daraprim showed how carelessly pricing is regulated.
Many have been left wondering if federal lawmakers will take action against the high price of life-preserving medications.
Putting Price-Gouging In the Spotlight
Drug prices have been steadily increasing throughout the past decade. The first big hit was when Gilead Sciences priced the hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi at $84,000.
The high price of prescription medication received a renewed wave of attention when Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim, an antiparasitic drug that protects seriously ill patients with weakened immune systems. CEO Martin Shkreli made the decision to raise the toxoplasmosis treatment from $13.50 to $750 a pill.
Although he rescinded his original announcement, media broadcasters publicized widespread outrage from politicians, health professionals and patients.
Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International added fuel to the fire by raising the price of two heart medications, Nitropress and Isuprel, by 525% and 212% respectively. Many of these companies have started a pattern of acquiring the rights to sell a certain drug before raising the price a few hundred times.
On top of that, Citron Research accused Valeant of conspiring with specialty pharmacies Philidor Rx Services and R&O Pharmacy in a plan to generate phony sales.
The report sheds light on a stark jump in drug costs for both new breakthrough medications and older generics.
How To Combat The Increase
John Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, has been working on a campaign to lower drug prices.
After the high price of Sovaldi and others brought attention to price-gouging, many politicians have begun to highlight the problem in their political campaigns.
“For lawmakers who are concerned about our fiscal standing, this is going to be an ever-more central issue,” Rother said.
According to a Health Affairs article, drug costs had increased 12.6% in 2014. While some are calling on regulators to step in, others believe that government interventions could have additional consequences.
“I’m very worried that on the pricing side, policymakers could be clumsy in trying to fix something and maybe make other problems,” Chip Kahn, Federation of American Hospitals CEO, said.
Both Democrats and Republicans have planned to address the issue in their platforms. Presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio are condemning the current system that allows drug companies to set their own prices.
Under Sanders and Clinton’s health care reform, Medicare would be given the ability to negotiate with drug companies to set prices. Patients would also be allowed to access to cheaper drugs from foreign providers.
Independent Health’s director of pharmacy services Sheila Arquette believes regulators will take action upon realizing that the current price of drugs makes health maintenance unsustainable.
Arquette recommends that drugmakers and insurers work together to find solutions, in addition to being more transparent about research and development costs.
“We have to be transparent, because I don’t think any of us really understand the whole picture,” Arquette said. “We need the manufacturers to come to the table and just be honest with us.”
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