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Pills and Money

At a rally in Kentucky, President Donald Trump said drug prices were “outrageous”. The next day, according to Kaiser Health News, the pharmaceutical industry donated more money to political campaigns than any other day this year. On March 21, eight pharma political action committees made 137 contributions to 77 politicians totaling nearly $280,000. Both Republicans and Democrats were beneficiaries. 

As reported here before, the pharmaceutical industry has 1,400 lobbyists and a budget exceeding a quarter of a billion dollars per year. They may have to start spending more. California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this month which will make drug pricing more transparent in the state. Under the new law, drug companies will be required to notify health insurance companies and government health plans, such as Medicare and Medicaid, of any price increase which exceeds 16% in a two-year period. The notification must take place 60 days before the price change. The drug companies would also have to provide an explanation of the rationale for raising the price. California has been a pioneer in other regulatory areas. The drug price issue is so high on everyone’s radar, the CA legislation might catch on with other states. 

People go bankrupt or die because of the high cost of drugs. Quick fixes are obvious to everyone except our political leaders who receive millions of dollars every year from big pharma.  Congress forbids Medicare from negotiating the cost of drugs. By simply eliminating that restriction, amazing things could begin to happen. For example, consider blood thinners for prevention of stroke. There are three leading drugs for this purpose: Eliquis, Xarelto, and Pradaxa. The drugs cost $400 per month. All three are within $25 or so of each other. Millions of the customers for these drugs are on Medicare. If Congress lifted the restriction, Medicare could put out an RFP. It would say Dear Pharma, we have X millions of Medicare beneficiaries in need of a blood thinner. Please give us your best price for the coming year. I am quite sure the price would be much less than $400.

Read more about Big Pharma and drug pricing in Health Attitude.

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