Big Pharma offers ideas to lower drug costs – except cutting prices

❝ Executives from seven drugmakers laid out their ideas for lowering drug prices to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. One idea was noticeably absent: lowering drug prices.

❝ The companies — AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi — threw their support behind a number of Trump administration proposals and pitched some of their own ideas in written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. Executives championed the investments their companies make and the lives they save, while acknowledging patients cannot benefit if they can’t afford medication…

❝ But none of the seven drugmakers committed to, or even suggested, lowering the price of their drugs…

RTFA if you feel the need to read the sort of specious rationales you would expect from corporate royalty. You might wish to send a message to your Congress-critter to take the side of working families, ordinary Americans, instead of these high-priced pimps.

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.

FDA pimps for Big Pharma — working harder than ever to stop Canadian prescriptions

For more than two years, Jean and Lee Edes have saved hundreds of dollars by ordering their prescription drugs from Canada…But when they called their Canadian pharmacy recently to check on an order, the Mount Dora couple learned the pills had been seized at the U.S. border.

They ended up paying for the medications twice: $276 for the Canadian package that was shipped but never arrived — and almost two times that amount to fill the prescriptions locally for drugs to treat osteoporosis, high cholesterol and a thyroid condition.

The frustrated couple complained to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is one sponsor of a bill in Congress that would make it legal to order prescriptions from Canada.

The Florida Democrat said the incident involving the Edeses’ pills is part of a growing crackdown on an illegal — yet widespread — practice that the Food and Drug Administration has mostly ignored in the past.

Nelson said the government’s tactics include confiscating drugs at the border, pressuring Visa and MasterCard to stop paying for the purchases, threatening legal action against insurance companies that cover Canadian drugs and, in one instance, having FDA agents board a bus carrying Minnesota seniors to inspect the medications they purchased across the border…

William Hubbard, FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning, said the agency has not stepped up actions against U.S. consumers…”We are not being aggressive in enforcing the laws,” Hubbard said…

Hubbard is a liar. His function is to police and threaten folks who resent the inflated prices paid for prescriptive drugs inside the protected American territory for Pharmaceutical corporations.

Continue reading

Prescription drug junkie births are as disturbing as deaths

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdose deaths in Florida are up a staggering 265% since 2003. But it’s not just the deaths that have Florida officials worried; it’s the births.

“We saw the number of crack babies that died, and this is just another version of that,” Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “We all need to be concerned.”

According to state health records, 635 Florida babies were born addicted to prescription drugs in the first half of 2010 alone. South Florida doctors and intensive care nurses report an dramatic uptick in babies born hooked on pills that their mothers abused while pregnant.

They go through withdrawal symptoms,” said Mary Osuch, the head nurse at Broward General Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. “They’re crampy, miserable. They sweat. They can have rapid breathing. Sometimes, they can even have seizures…”

Marsha Currant, who runs the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center near Fort Lauderdale, says prescription drug addiction overtook crack in 2009 as the main problem afflicting the pregnant women who are treated there…

Currant says new mothers who are hooked on prescription drugs are often reluctant to seek help for fear the authorities will take their babies from them.

“We wanted to have a place where women didn’t have to chose between getting treatment and having their children go into foster care,” she said.

Compounding the problem, women who are addicted to prescription drugs and find themselves pregnant cannot safely go off the drugs without medical supervision. They need to be weaned off slowly, or the baby will go into withdrawal in the womb.

Yes, Florida has a Tea Party governor who made his billions dispensing drugs. He’s so “serious” about the problem that he actually says stuff about it. And had to be dragged kicking and screaming into signing a bill requiring a statewide database tracking pill prescriptions. He calls it an invasion of privacy.

Meanwhile, Florida is the pill center of America. A situation which reflects a lax medical community as a whole – and a governor whose walk-in clinics established the record for the largest fine ever paid for Medicare fraud.

Poisoning by prescription drugs on dramatic rise

Poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. While several recent high-profile Hollywood celebrity cases have brought the problem to public attention, the rates of unintentional poisoning deaths have been on the rise for more than 15 years, and in fact, unintentional poisoning has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death among people 35-54 years of age.

In a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the U.S. have increased by 65% from 1999 to 2006…

In the first comprehensive examination of nationwide hospitalizations associated with these prescription medications, researchers examined data gathered from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), which contains records for approximately 8 million hospitalizations per year. By using standard diagnosis codes from the ICD-9-CM, the authors extracted from the NIS all poisonings by drugs, medicinal, and biological substances reported from 1999-2006, and further categorized the specific types of drugs in each case. It was also possible to determine whether the poisoning was diagnosed as intentional, unintentional or undetermined.

Dr. Coben believes that while the data reveals a fast-growing problem, there’s an urgent need for more in-depth research on this wave of injuries and deaths. Writing in the article, he said, “Interviews with survivors could provide important additional details regarding the pathways to abuse of these drugs, the methods used to obtain the medications, the sequencing and combination of drugs that result in overdose, and the immediate precursors to these serious events. The association between hospitalization for prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers and subsequent morbidity and mortality is another area in need of further research.”

While the majority of hospitalized poisonings are classified as unintentional, substantial increases were also demonstrated for intentional overdoses associated with these drugs, likely reflecting their widespread availability in community settings.

That’s a polite way of describing “doctor shopping” and physicians who decide to make an extra buck on kickbacks from unneeded prescriptions. RTFA for details on the epidemic.