Monday, December 7, 2015

Sanders: Drug 'merger' must be stopped



The American drug corporation Pfizer announced it was merging with a smaller overseas company called Allergan so that it can evade American taxes.



They didn’t put it that way, of course. 

Pfizer’s CEO used double-talk instead, saying that “we’ve assessed the legal, regulatory and political landscape and are moving forward with our strategy to combine these two great companies for the benefit of the patients and to bring value to shareholders.”



Let’s put that in plain English. Pfizer has been an American company based in New York for 166 years. 

Now it wants to merge with a company based in Ireland so that it can dodge its tax responsibilities and pay a lower rate than many teachers and nurses do in this country.


This is a phony move. The new company will still be based in New York. It will still earn huge profits in the United States, which will still be its biggest market. Pfizer shareholders will own more than half of the merged corporation. And yet, when tax time rolls around, this company will want us to believe that it is really Irish and not American. 

Do they expect us to fall for that?


Monday, November 23, 2015

Report: Rapid Rise in Cost of Specialty Drugs Exceeds Median Family Income


November 23, 2015/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Retail prices for over one hundred widely used specialty prescription drugs surged skyward by nearly 11 percent in 2013, surpassing the median income of an American family, according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) report issued today.

The average annual cost of a specialty medication used on a chronic basis exceeded $53,000 in 2013. This cost was greater than the median U.S. household income of $52,250, more than twice the median income of $23,500 for people on Medicare, and almost three-and-a-half times higher than the average Social Security retirement benefit of $15,526 over the same time period.

"Specialty drugs are among the most expensive on the market, and are expected to be the fastest growing group of drugs over the next decade," said Debra Whitman, PhD, AARP's Chief Public Policy Officer.

"These exorbitant prices and price increases can be financially disastrous, especially for people on fixed incomes. Americans cannot continue to absorb the astronomical costs associated with these products indefinitely."

The AARP PPI report also found that specialty drug prices are considerably higher than other drug prices. In 2013, the average annual cost for specialty prescription drugs was 18 times higher than the cost of brand name prescription drugs and 189 times higher than the cost of generic prescription drugs.

Specialty drugs generally include drugs used to treat complex, chronic health conditions.

They often require special care in how they are administered to patients, as well as in how they are handled and stored. Many specialty drugs treat conditions that are common among older people, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

The new report, the third in a series of reports on prescription drug prices, examined the retail prices of 115 specialty prescription drugs most widely used by older Americans.

The analysis included 47 different drug manufacturers and covered 30 different therapeutic categories. The vast majority (85%) of the 115 specialty drugs studied are used to treat chronic health conditions.

Highlights of the Rx Price Watch Report
Based on the retail prices of 115 widely used specialty prescription drugs in 2013:

  • Average annual cost for one specialty medication used on a chronic basis: $53,384
  • Average annual cost was 18 times higher than the cost for brand name drugs: $53,384 vs. $2,960
  • Average annual cost was 189 times higher than the cost for generic drugs: $53,384 vs. $283
  • Average annual price increase was more than 7 times higher than inflation: 10.6% vs. 1.5%
  •  
"We know that nearly two-thirds of older Americans use three or more prescription drugs on a regular basis," saidLeigh Purvis, MPA, PPI Director of Health Services Research and co-author of the new report.

"The average price of just one specialty drug now outstrips what many families earn in a year. These high drug prices can make it extremely difficult for patients to afford the treatment they need to stay healthy."

According to the AARP PPI report, policy makers interested in reducing the impact of high drug prices should focus on solutions that balance the need for pharmaceutical innovation with the need for improved health and the financial security of consumers and taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.


"Rx Price Watch Report: Trends in Retail Prices of Specialty Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans, 2006 to 2013" Methodology

AARP's Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota, developed a group of 115 specialty prescription drug products most widely used by older Americans. Using data from the Truven Health MarketScan® Research Databases, the report analyzed retail price changes between 2006 and 2013 for these 115 specialty drugs.

Additional Resources

Friday, November 20, 2015

Obama Administration Drug Pricing Forum Should Address Urgently Needed Prescription Savings Realized Through Importation From Safe Canadian Pharmacies

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Nov 20, 2015) - As Americans continue to pay the highest prices in the world for basic health maintenance medications, the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI) is encouraged that U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell, is conducting a drug pricing forum on November 20.

CPPI applauds this effort to discuss how "...the high and growing cost of drugs has created hardship for families, employers, and states" as mentioned on the forum website. However, we are disappointed that the focus remains on specialty medications.

"Millions of Americans need access to safe, affordable health maintenance medications to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol, asthma, thyroid problems, depression, and other chronic ailments. They, too, need relief from excessive prices and ridiculous annual increases in the cost of their lifesaving medications," said Bryan Tackett, executive director of CPPI.

The high cost of medications continues to top the list of public priorities for Congress and the President, according to the recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Sixty-three percent of Americans believe "government action to lower prescription drug prices" should be taken. 

This can easily be done by passing one of several bipartisan bills (e.g., S. 122/H.R. 2228 or S. 2023/H.R. 3513) in Congress that would allow Americans to import their basic prescriptions from safe, affordable sources in Canada. Over the last decade, 10 million Americans have safely imported their health maintenance prescriptions from licensed, legitimate Canadian pharmacies. The results: America's seniors, retirees, and low-income individuals can maintain their health without having to choose between their medications and eating or paying their bills.

CPPI submitted a comment for the record for the November 20 forum in the hope that HHS will consider the significant savings and positive safety and health impacts that allowing individuals to import health maintenance medications from Canada would have for all Americans and U.S. taxpayers.

About the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation

The Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI) is a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting access to safe, affordable imported prescription medications from Canada for 90-day personal use. 

CPPI supporters and members represent low- and fixed-income Americans who urgently need an alternative to the exorbitantly high cost of prescriptions in the U.S., which causes millions of Americans to skip doses, split pills in half, take daily medications on an irregular basis, or avoid filling prescriptions entirely, jeopardizing their health. More information about CPPI can be found online at www.personalimportation.org.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Study Shows That Without Prescription Coverage, Even Relatively Low-Cost Cancer Medicines Can Be "Catastrophic"


Newswise, November 19, 2015 — A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment shows that breast cancer patients whose health insurance plans included prescription drug benefits were 10 percent more likely to start important hormonal therapy than patients who did not have prescription drug coverage.

Women with household income below $40,000 were less than half as likely as women with annual household income greater than $70,000 to continue hormonal therapy. Hormonal therapy for patients with estrogen- or progesterone-positive breast cancers can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by as much as 50 percent.

“I think what this research says is that general health insurance isn’t enough. You have to have prescription drug coverage,” says Cathy J. Bradley, PhD, associate director for Population Studies at the CU Cancer Center, professor in the Colorado School of Public Health, and the paper’s first author.
The study used surveys to explore the initiation and continuation of prescribed hormonal therapy, reaching 712 women 9 months after a breast cancer diagnosis and then again 4 years later (this maintenance therapy generally lasts 5-10 years). Of women with prescription drug coverage, 90 percent started recommended hormonal therapy and 81 percent continued through the study.

Of women without prescription drug coverage, 82 percent started hormonal therapy and 66 percent continued. Women with annual household income of less than $40,000 were only about 40 percent as likely as women from wealthier households to follow through with a doctor’s recommendation to start hormonal therapy.

The study takes place in the context of two important changes to the landscape of oncology treatment: the development of new, targeted treatments for cancer, which tend to be very expensive and also tend to be taken orally and in patients’ homes, and the Affordable Care Act, which has increased access to health insurance.

“Targeted cancer therapies tend to come in the form of pills taken at home. Many of these new therapies are expensive. This combination of more expensive medicines taken outside the hospital setting means less compliance.

Or we see people choosing to alter their prescribed regimens by skipping doses. When you start to dial back from recommended doses, at some point the drug loses its effectiveness,” Bradley says.

Bradley points to increasing costs of cancer care as a reason for insurers and healthcare consumers to rethink the definition of “catastrophic” illness.

Her findings show that women without prescription drug coverage, especially if they are from low-income households, may choose not to comply even with a relatively low-cost treatment regimen.

“When someone thinks about coverage for high cost care, they’re usually thinking about that trip to the hospital that costs $80,000 that could leave them bankrupt. But the fact is that the cost of prescription medicines—even fairly low cost medications – can also be ‘catastrophic’,” Bradley says.

She also notes that efforts under the Affordable Care Act are underway to provide prescription coverage that would guard against undue financial hardship in the case that expensive medicines become necessary.


“We have good evidence that when people feel that a drug is too expensive, they stop taking it,” Bradley says. “This study suggests that reluctance to insure prescription drugs may result in increased recurrence and poor survival among women with breast cancer, one of the largest groups of cancer survivors.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AMA Calls for Ban on Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices

November 17, 2015 - Responding to the billions of advertising dollars being spent to promote prescription products, physicians at the Interim Meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted new policy aimed at driving solutions to make prescription drugs more affordable. Physicians cited concerns that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives.

"Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. Advertising dollars spent by drug makers have increased by 30 percent in the last two years to $4.5 billion, according to the market research firm Kantar Media.

New AMA policy also calls for convening a physician task force and launching an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs.

"Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments," said Dr. Harris.

"Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patient's health plan. In a worst-case scenario, patients forego necessary treatments when drugs are too expensive."

New AMA policy responds to deepened concerns that anticompetitive behavior in a consolidated pharmaceutical marketplace has the potential to increase drug prices. The AMA will encourage actions by federal regulators to limit anticompetitive behavior by pharmaceutical companies attempting to reduce competition from generic manufacturers through manipulation of patent protections and abuse of regulatory exclusivity incentives.

The AMA will also monitor pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions, as well as the impact of such actions on drug prices. Patent reform is a key area for encouraging greater market-based competition and new AMA policy will support an appropriate balance between incentives for innovation on the one hand and efforts to reduce regulatory and statutory barriers to competition as part of the patent system.

Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report saying that a high cost of prescription drugs remains the public's top health care priority. In the past few years, prices on generic and brand-name prescription drugs have steadily risen and experienced a 4.7 percent spike in 2015, according to the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

The AMA's new policy recognizes that the promotion of transparency in prescription drug pricing and costs will help patients, physicians and other stakeholders understand how drug manufacturers set prices. If there is greater understanding of the factors that contribute to prescription drug pricing, including the research, development, manufacturing, marketing and advertising costs borne by pharmaceutical companies, then the marketplace can react appropriately.


About the AMA
The American Medical Association is the premier national organization dedicated to empowering the nation's physicians to continually provide safer, higher quality, and more efficient care to patients and communities. For more than 165 years the AMA has been unwavering in its commitment to using its unique position and knowledge to shape a healthier future for America. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.