Monday, February 29, 2016

Ugly Realities of High Drug Costs
To witness ugly realities of protecting patients against high health care costs,  look no further than the current squabble over controlling high drug prices.
Look no further than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,  wherein the pharmaceutical companies provided substantial support for the Act in exchange for avoiding direct price negotiations with the drug industry.
Look no further than the dire prospects of  reduced innovations by the industry and reduced company investments in new drugs and diminished public access to those drugs.
Look no further than the dilemmas of bringing  high costs of bringing a new drug to market without compromising its safety.
Look no further than the Pfizer  merger deal with Allergan which would move Pfizer’s headquarters to Ireland and save the company $35 billion in taxes on profits of $148 billion earned and stashed  abroad.
Look no further than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35%, the highest in the industrialized world, which encourages tax inversion moves like  Pfizer and a host of other drug companies.
Look no further than the 10% to 15% across the board increases in drug prices in 2015.
Look no further than the political poundings of Hillary Clinton,  Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump on drug companies as the villains in the failure of the health law to bring down premium costs.
Look no further than the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution which says that no state “shall deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Look no further than Congressional lawmakers “who may have little appetite for direct government negotiation of drug prices.( Rena Conti and Meredith Rosenthal, “Pharmaceutical Policy Reform – Balancing Affordability with Incentives for Innovation,” NEJM, February 25. 2016).
Look no further than the rapid  rise of generic prescriptions, which now make up  81% all prescriptions,  but cut profits of drug firms who raise the price of old and new  brand-name drugs to make drugs to make up for losses.
Look no further than the “rise of the unprotected”,  who are protesting en masse against a government of “ protected people who don’t seem to care much about their unprotected fellow citizens.” (Peggy Noonan, “Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected,” WSJ, February 27-28, 2016).
Look no further than the outrage over the escalating rise of drug  prices and the role of Big Pharma lobbyists, who spent $18.4 million in 2015 to protect the industry. “Public outrage is boiling,” says John Rother, who lead the Campaign for Sustainable Rx  Pricing.  (Robert Pear, “Lobbyist for Drug Makers Threads a Thicket of Outrage,” NYT, February 26, 2015).
The ugly realities?  There is no single, easy, silver-bullet answer to high and escalating drug prices in America.   Economic freedom has a price.

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