This week, Merck’s CEO, Kenneth Frazier, resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in protest over the president’s initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA. White supremacist groups came together to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who headed the Confederate Army, and counter-protesters clashed this past Saturday. During the events, a self-affiliating white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19. The president condemned the violence but made it seem as if both sides, white supremacists and counter-protesters, were equally to blame, which is wrong. Mr. Frazier believed that President Trump should have forcefully and clearly criticized white supremacists.
I strongly agree with and applaud Mr. Frazier’s action. However, I felt compelled to write about this issue because President Trump mocked Mr. Frazier on Twitter about high drug prices. He wrote: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Mr. Frazier, the son of a hardworking janitor, worked his way up to his current position. He is also African American. For obvious and good reasons, he took a stand. But Mr. Frazier is also CEO of a Big Pharma company and not interested in lower drug prices.
President Trump is the one who needs to act, and President Trump is the one who can lower drug prices.
Trump supported legalizing importation of lower cost medications during his presidential campaign. It was one of his few positions that has wide, bi-partisan public support. He has the executive authority, via the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to expressly permit personal drug importation now.
Now is the time to use that authority.
Tagged with: Big Pharma, Drug Prices, Kenneth Frazier, Merck, President Trump, Robert E. Lee
The media rage these days when it comes to prescription drug prices is three-fold: 1) generic drug price spikes of literally thousands of percent, 2) specialty medications that cost $1.000/pill, and 3) cancer treatment costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year! We’re glad the media is loudly covering the public health crisis of high drug prices, but its focus of late seems to take the heat off of never ending brand name drug price increases and the pharmaceutical companies that charge those prices. We haven’t forgotten. For us the heat is on: including a loud reminder that these brand drugs are sold much more affordably outside the U.S., and can be found and safely purchased online.
To help us, I looked to the research of David Belk, MD. Dr. Belk, who is concerned with, and voraciously researches the insanity of healthcare costs, publishes a website called True Cost of Healthcare. His research shows that brand name drug prices increased by 13 times the rate of inflation over the past two and a half years. These are medications for which there is no available generic in the U.S. He looked at 335 drugs, their wholesale prices and tracked their increases from the October 2012 to the beginning of 2015. Only one drug, Norvir, actually came down in price. Dr. Belk writes: “All other brand name prescription drugs on my list went up a minimum of 9% and an average of just over 40% in price in only 2 1/2 years.”
While these brand drugs aren’t $1,000 per pill like Sovaldi, many Americans really can’t afford them. Below are two examples of brand name drugs that if purchased outside the U.S., would potentially save an American $4,000 a year and/or prevent that American from going without a prescribed, essential medicine for Diabetes or Asthma.
Januvia 100mg (siptagliptin), a drug that treats type-2 diabetes could cost you $1,149 for a three month supply at a local U.S. pharmacy. With a prescription discount coupon, you might get it for $963. If that’s too much, then brand name Januvia, marketed by MSD (a subsidiary of Merck), can be purchased online for $103.50 from an international online pharmacy– a percentage savings of 91% and a cost savings exceeding $1,000 over 3 months. Over a year, the cost savings is about $4,000.
Another example is Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate/salmeterol), a popular asthma medication that is out of reach for many Americans due to cost. A three month supply of the 250/50mcg inhaler can run you $1,050 in a local U.S. pharmacy. With a discount card the price might be reduced to $874. At a verified international online pharmacy, the drug called Seretide Accuhaler, the name brand used by GlaxoSmithKline to market fluticasone propionate/salmeterol in several countries, is only $105: another three-month savings of $1,000 and annual savings of $4,000.
This summer at PharmacyChecker.com we’re going to keep the heat on the pharmaceutical industry with lots of examples of the crazy costs of normal brand name drugs in the U.S., and cooling things down for consumers with lots of savings you can find online.
Tagged with: Advair Diskus, Cancer medication, Dr. David Belk, generic drug prices, Januvia, Merck, Seretide Accuhaler, Sovaldi, speciality medications
A recent blog post on Philly.com by pharmaceutical industry expert Daniel Hoffman, Ph.D., exposes the hypocrisy of pharma’s addictions to high U.S. drug prices and deceptive marketing. Dr. Hoffman asserts that because the pharmaceutical industry is doing a bad job at generating revenues with new and innovative medications, and even flailing in its “me-too” drug business model, it has shifted to “economic hypocrisy and legal sophistry” to protect and generate revenue. Its shift may also be caused by increasing use of generics and compulsory licensing (allowing generic competition in spite of current patents), as well as the flat-out uproar against high drug prices, especially in the U.S.
Dr. Hoffman used data from our “American Made; Cheaper Abroad” series to highlight the incredible price gap between domestic and foreign prices of American made drugs. A price gap should exist; there’s nothing wrong with companies setting different prices in different countries. Poorer countries pay lower prices, and richer countries pay higher prices. The problem is that drug prices are excessively high in the U.S., so much so that they are often unaffordable for tens of millions of middle class Americans. The pharmaceutical industry takes advantage of a global economy and free trade agreements to keep manufacturing costs down and maximize patent terms. Despite reaping the rewards of globalization, the industry continues to try to prevent consumers from doing so, as exemplified by its efforts to stop Maine’s progressive law that facilitates safe personal drug importation. The industry’s bogus safety arguments about personal drug importation failed to stop the law from passing and now the drug and U.S. pharmacy industries are turning to the courts to protect profits.
Dr. Hoffman explains other legal ploys recently used by pharma, primarily to defend against charges of deceptive marketing practices. Johnson & Johnson, claiming its rights of due process were violated, tried to invalidate a request for documents by the City of Chicago in part because the city used an outside law firm that would receive a percentage of any settlement. In other words, J&J argued that by earning a percentage of a potential settlement, the law firm’s incentive to win was too strong and thus unfair to J&J! Facing similar charges, Merck argued against the Kentucky Attorney General’s similar arrangement with an outside law firm. A judge ruled against Merck’s complaint.
To quote the author, “So pharma vigorously seeks justice from the legal system when it tries to prevent foreign countries from exercising compulsory licensing (i.e. breaking patents), while it also claims the public’s representatives shouldn’t be allowed to obtain first-rate legal counsel.” Pharma is trying to create an unfair playing field, both in the legal area and within the global economy.
Tagged with: American Made Prescriptions Are Cheaper Abroad, Daniel Hoffman, Johnson and Johnson, Merck