Live in the US? Rejoice! You’re free to pay too much for prescription drugs

Why does the US pay more for prescription drugs than any other country? Monopolies and a government that can’t negotiate, scientists said in a paper that may provide ammunition for lawmakers aiming to lower drug costs.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School dug through medical and health policy papers published in the last 10 years to figure out why people in the US spent almost twice as much on prescription drugs in 2013 compared to 19 other industrialized nations — and why prices are still going up. They found that FDA regulations and patents protect drug companies from competition, and federal law prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices. All of which work together to allow drug companies to set their own prices…

Aaron Kesselheim and his colleagues propose a number of solutions. Those include giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices, as well as removing some of the regulations that keep generics from speedily entering the market. The authors also suggest educating payers, providers, and patients about how effective competing treatments are, and having pharmacies automatically substitute cheaper generic drugs for pricey brand name prescriptions…

But Kesselheim thinks allowing Medicare to negotiate is small potatoes compared to making sure there’s competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace.

The JAMA paper describes two forms of legal protection that give brand name pharmaceuticals an effective monopoly. The first is exclusivity granted by the FDA that gives new small molecule drugs and biologics windows of five to seven years and 12 years, respectively, before generic versions can be sold. And patents can protect the active ingredient and chemical structure of a drug — as well as less fundamental aspects like its formulation and coating — for 20 years or more. Generic manufacturers can sue to challenge these patents, but in a practice called pay for delay, big name pharma companies settle the suits and pay generics manufacturers to wait it out until the patent expires…

Along those lines, Amy Klobuchar — the senator who called for an investigation into EpiPen price hikes — is co-sponsoring several bills that could, if they passed, help increase competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace by enabling Medicare price negotiation, allowing patients to import pharmaceuticals from Canada, and preventing pharmaceutical companies from blocking generics entering the marketplace.

And as the final healthcare professional interviewed for the article noted – all these remedies can and should be applied to the whole range of price-gouging we face as captive consumers in a nation where our politicians are owned by lobbyists.

OK. I added that last phrase.

Celtic fans raise money for Palestinian charities after protest — UEFA suits want to fine the football club

Celtic fans support Palestine
Click to enlargeRussell Cheyne/Reuters

UEFA began disciplinary proceedings against Celtic last week after a number of fans displayed Palestinian flags during their 5-2 home victory against Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a Champions League qualifier. In an attempt to match an impending UEFA fine for displaying the flags, supporters of the Glasgow club have exceeded their initial target of raising £15,000 for Palestinian charities.

Since UEFA’s threat against the club went viral, supporters have now raised over £140,000 for Palestinian charities. Here’s the link if you wish to donate.

The Green Brigade group of supporters set up an appeal on the gofundme website on Sunday to match the anticipated fine. The fans are raising money for Medical Aid Palestine, which delivers health and medical care to those “worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement,” and the Lajee Centre, a cultural and sports project for children in Aida refugee camp, in Bethlehem.

BTW, the away leg was played in Israel, this week, and though Hapoel won the match, aggregate score gave victory to Celtic. Hapoel is now out of the tournament. In Israel’s “traditional spirit of fair play”, they limited the number of Celtic supporters allowed to attend the match to 250. They were searched by police before entering the stadium and threatened with arrest if they demonstrated support for Palestinians during the match.

#matchthefineforpalestine

Moored at sea, generating electricity off the island of Texel


Click to enlargeDamen

Taking just six months from the drawing board to realisation, the BlueTEC Texel tidal energy platform was installed in the summer of 2015 and is operating off the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The prototype is producing electricity from the tides into the local grid.

BlueTEC Modular was designed by Damen to be transported and installed all over in the world to provide clean energy in remote areas and small islands, replacing diesel generators.

Just before the end of 2015, the platform was fitted with a more powerful Tocardo T2 turbine and, in early 2016, the platform was commissioned with a larger T2 tidal turbine. Currently the platform generates clean electricity from the tides in the Wadden Sea of The Netherlands.

Six months start-to-finish. Replacing a diesel-powered generator. How long do you think this would take to design, approve through local, state and federal government, construct and put in place — here in the GOUSA?

Uh-huh.