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Pharma and Healthcare Cost

The Medpage Today staff reported this week on a CNN investigation of Nuedexta, a drug approved for PseudoBulbar Affect (PBA). The investigation found PBA is being marketed aggressively to the elderly as a therapy for dementia. Even though independent studies indicate PBA is only rarely associated with dementia, Avanir, the drug’s manufacturer, has spent millions of dollars promoting the drug to physicians who treat nursing home residents. At one Los Angeles nursing home, a psychiatrist, who was a paid speaker for Avanir, prescribed the drug for more than 25% of residents. Experts told CNN  Nuedexta is probably unnecessary for most elderly patients taking it and could be dangerous. Another thing which is unnecessary is the billions spent on TV advertising for prescription drugs. No other country (except New Zealand) allows direct to consumer advertising for prescription drugs. What is different about us? Our corrupt Congress (both parties).

Also this week, we learned Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Congressman, withdrew his name from consideration for Drug Czar, a key position to lead efforts to solve the opioid crisis. Investigative reporters learned Morino led efforts to pass a bill which tied the hands of drug enforcement. The bill had been pushed by the pharmaceutical lobby, although now they call for it to be repealed. One congressional leader said Congress had been misled about the legislation. Mr. Marino received $100,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry.

I have discussed the drug pricing issue with quite a few physicians and healthcare executives. Every single one agrees our Congress is corrupt on the issue, but they are powerless. The only group which is not powerless is us. We need to speak up. One reader of last week’s e-brief about Big Pharma and Politics sent the e-brief to his Senator and Congresswoman. The Senator replied promptly and cited a pending bill which takes on Big Pharma, including repealing the restriction on Medicare negotiating the price of drugs. The Senate bill  is referred to as S. 771 from the 115th Congress: Improving Access To Affordable Prescription Drugs Act. You can follow the bill hereSkopos Labs analyzes the prognosis for legislation using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology. They give the bill a 7% chance of being passed.

Th bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on March 29, 2017. It will typically be considered by committee next before it (possibly) gets sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. I am not a fan of the sponsors of the bill, but I think we need immediate focus and this bill is a good starting point. People are dying and going bankrupt because of Congress. Lets keep the pressure on. Tell your politicians you want to see action on drug pricing and marketing. Read my source for the story: Drug Makers Push Inappropriate Drug on Elderly and read more about pharmaceutical industry pricing and profits in Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare.

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