An article by Joe Rothstein in EIN News concerning personal drug importation and online pharmacies recently caught our eye for two reasons. First, Mr. Rothstein called out the pharmaceutical industry for funding groups that give poor advice to consumers about buying medication online. Second, Mr. Rothstein identified PharmacyChecker.com as a source for “providing a list of certified Canadian suppliers who sell at prices usually well below the cost of U.S. pharmacies.” It is true that we do that, but our efforts extend far beyond Canada; we also verify and inspect pharmacies in many other countries, which was not mentioned in the article.
So what’s the issue? Remember, that according to the FDA, personally importing medication under most circumstances is technically illegal. Of course, many of us believe that it can be and is done very safely. Mr. Rothstein’s article states “…defenders of the importation law argue that thousands of phony online sites claim to be ‘Canadian’ to fool the unwary, and for self-protection consumers should avoid Canadian sites entirely.” Opponents of personal drug importation use those quotes around Canadian because they believe that dangerous rogue online pharmacies deceive consumers by claiming to be Canadian, only to ship medication from another country. On this count we agree with Big Pharma, however there are also safe Canadian online pharmacies that do refer prescription orders to licensed pharmacies in other countries. (more…)
Tagged with: Canadian Pharmacy, EIN News, international online pharmacies, Joe Rothstein
A new report by Express Scripts has found that medication spending by commercial health plans grew by 13.1% last year, primarily due to the release of high cost Hepatitis C meds. Spending also increased significantly for compounded drugs. In the prior decade, total spending ranged between three and six percent.
Keep in mind that the headline statistic of 13.1% applies to how much was spent on drugs; it actually doesn’t tell us anything about the prices of the drugs. If drug utilization, which refers to the amount of drugs taken, increases while prices stay the same, then there’s more spending. As it turns out, utilization decreased by a marginal 0.1 % and d prices increased by 13.2%, demonstrating that drug costs were the primary cause of increased drug spending. In fact, a vice president at Express Scripts referred to the drug price increases as “unprecedented and unsustainable.”
Specialty drugs, which often require careful handling, administration, or monitoring, saw a dramatic 30.9% increase in spending. As mentioned earlier, spending on hepatitis C treatments was the primary driver in overall spending, skyrocketing by 742.6%. Other notable (though nowhere near even 100%) increases include 20% for oncology drugs, 24% for treatments for inflammatory conditions, and 17% for hemophilia drugs. It’s not uncommon for these medications to cost many thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars per month. Sovaldi, a hep C drug, costs $1,000 per pill. We covered the Sovaldi saga in depth.
The story for traditional medications, such as those commonly used to treat asthma, depression, diabetes, GERD, high cholesterol, and pain is much more mixed. Despite drug prices rising by 6.4% overall, prices dropped for five out of ten therapy classes. Depression medication prices, for example, plummeted by 18%. Interestingly, the report noted compound drugsas a therapy class, even though they treat a variety of conditions. These drugs had an unusually large price increase of 128%! Excluding compound drugs, drug prices for traditional meds were up only 2.3%. (more…)
Tagged with: AbbVie, Express Scripts, Gilead Sciences, Harvoni, Hepatitis C, Sovaldi
If you were to take a time machine and go back to 2006 and put a hundred bucks in a savings account with 5% annual interest, you’d have $147.50 in 2014. Not bad. But if your interest rate was tied to the annual price increases of brand name drugs you’d end up with…$202. And if for some crazy reason you just wanted to have the same purchasing power 8 years later, and tied your interest rate to inflation, you’d only end up with $125.
Clearly the increase of drug prices are out of line with the prices for everything else, and while the numbers figured above only take in to account brand name prices, generic prices are rising, too. On average, generics cost 5% more in 2014 than they did in 2013. That’s on average – some generic drug prices increased by 2,500 %!
But there’s good news on the way. Senators Sanders and Klobuchar are fighting for more affordable medication. Some more good news, at least for seniors, was released this past week. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration’s fiscal budget for 2016 calls for the government to negotiate prices for biologic and high-cost drugs for Medicare Part D. While, we’d like to see prices negotiated for all drugs, this can still represent huge savings for the government. Estimates suggest that 9.1% of national health spending could be on specialty drugs. That’s total health spending, not just drug spending.
We’re eager to see if the government will actually able to negotiate prices in 2016 – who knows how the budget will change or if Pharma will push to prevent negotiations. We’ll be keeping an eye on this and will certainly let you know.
Tagged with: Medicare Part D, Senator amy Klobuchar, Senator Bernie Sanders, Specialty Medications