Friday, May 29, 2015

Generic Drug Prices Dropping More Slowly According to AARP Report


Publisher's Note:  It is becoming increasingly apparent that generic drug manufacturers are following the lead of Pharma in charging what the traffic will bear.  That is why it is imperative that steps be taken by Congress to act to ensure that the FDA/Pharma collusion does not lead to the senseless seizure and destruction of safe, valid, brand-name prescription medicines.  Personal importation can offer Americans a competitive option to being the victims of the highest prescription prescription medicine prices in the world.



Some generic drugs had substantial price decreases; others had equally substantial price increases

WASHINGTON, DC—The new Rx Price Watch Report released today by AARP Public Policy Institute(PPI) shows a number of popular generic drugs had substantial price increases, with some prices going up as much as 1,000%. Overall, retail prices for generic prescription drugs widely used by older Americans fell an average of 4% in 2013. Although generic drug prices have been consistently declining over the past several years, the latest annual data available showed the smallest average annual decline since at least 2006, a sign that the era of falling prices for generic drugs could be coming to an end.
The new PPI report looked at the 2013 retail prices for 280 of the generic drugs most widely used by older Americans. The report shows that the majority (73%) of widely used generic drug products included in the study experienced price decreases, some of them substantial.  
“Declining generic drug prices have helped many Americans’ pocketbooks, particularly older adults on fixed incomes,” said Debra Whitman, PhD, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy. “Unfortunately, recent trends indicate that we may not be able to rely on these savings forever.”
Nearly two-thirds of older Americans use three or more prescription drugs a year, according to the report. If these people used three generic drugs on a chronic basis in 2013, they would have paid an average annual retail price of therapy of $849. In contrast, the average annual retail price of therapy for three brand name medications used on a chronic basis was more than 10 times higher ($8,880) over the same period.
Highlights of the 2013 Rx Price Watch Report
Based on the market basket of 280 generic drugs widely used by older Americans:
  • On average, retail prices of widely used generic drugs fell by 4% in 2013
  • 73% had retail price decreases
  • 27% had retail price increases
  • 11 drugs had retail price increases of greater than 30%
  • $283: Average annual cost for a generic drug used for a chronic condition
According to the AARP PPI Report, more than 75% of all retail prescriptions filled in the US are for generic drugs. Lower cost generic drugs help consumers and third-party payers—such as private health insurers and state and federal programs—manage the high cost of prescription drugs.
“Many brand name drugs have generic equivalents that are every bit as safe and effective but typically cost much less than their brand name counterparts,” said Leigh Purvis, MPA, PPI Director of Health Services Research and co-author of the new report. “As more and more new brand name drugs and biologic drugs enter the market with extremely high prices, it will be more important than ever that people have generic medications to help with their budgets.” 
AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota, developed a market basket of 280 generic prescription drug products 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 the drug products in the market basket. The medications include products used to treat common and often chronic health conditions, including high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, and hypertension.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sanders Urges VA to Use Emergency Powers to Save Lives of Veterans with Liver Disease



Publisher's note:  Senator Sanders uses the power to rescind patent protection as punishment for companies profiteering from excessive drug prices.  This has been recommended before by many who believe the threat of rescinding the unique and long-lived patent protection provided for Pharma is one method of bringing prices into line. Simply put,a drug that is unaffordable is unavailable, and since the US Taxpayer fist helps subsidize the development of new drugs, American citizens should have a stakeholder position.  We applaud Senator Sanders

WASHINGTON, May 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to invoke emergency powers to make expensive hepatitis C drugs available at affordable prices to treat tens of thousands of veterans now being denied the most effective care.

The VA recently stopped enrolling veterans in successful new treatments for the often deadly liver disease because the department already had spent the more than $400 million it had budgeted for the costly drugs.

The high-profit hepatitis C drugs are among the most expensive medications on the market. Gilead Sciences makes two of the new blockbuster medications and charges $1,000 per pill.

That adds up to $84,000 over the course of caring for a single patient. Even with a discount, the large VA health care system still drained its budget for treating hepatitis C.

Sanders’ proposal would make it possible for the VA, which already has treated about 20,000 veterans for hepatitis C, to afford to care for the estimated 200,000 additional veterans enrolled in VA health care who are believed to have the disease.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Sanders urged him to authorize the manufacture or importation of the drug for VA patients at a fraction of what is being charged by the companies which hold patents on the medications.

“Our nation’s veterans cannot and should not be denied treatment while drug companies rake in billions of dollars in profits,” Sanders said in the letter. He noted that the new medications could cure many more patients with far fewer side effects.

 “We must not allow corporate greed to stand in the way of this potential.”The legal provision Sanders cited has been used in the past to stop profiteering by defense contractors in wartime. 

The threat of using the same law by the administration of President George W. Bush persuaded Bayer, which held a patent on Cipro, to dramatically cut the price of the antibiotic after anthrax-laced letters were mailed to Capitol Hill and news media offices in 2001.

“One solution to this would be for Gilead Sciences to simply provide the drug to VA at no cost,” Sanders said. “However, the company has not stepped up to do this for our country’s veterans.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sanders last year held a hearing on the high price of hepatitis C medications. 

Now serving as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders said using the government’s existing authority to have the hepatitis C drugs manufactured or imported at lower cost would save taxpayers billions of dollars now going to the pharmaceutical companies

Monday, May 11, 2015

Time for A Congressional Caucus to support Congress moves on Personal Importation

The publisher of RxforAmericanHealth says that it is time for Congress to form a Congressional Caucus to support recently introduced legislative proposals on behalf of the personal importation of safe, affordable prescription medicines, and to act as a watchdog to prevent the potential of abuse by the Food and Drug Administration of Section 708 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) with the unwarranted destruction of valid, safe medicines personally imported by Americans.

Daniel Hines, publisher of RxforAmericanHealth and TodaysSeniorsNetwork, notes that there is a reservoir of support in the US Congress for the proven safety and efficacy of personal importation. He cites the introduction of S.122, The Safe and Affordable Medicines from Canada Act by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) with co-sponsors Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and HR.2228, the companion bill of the same name in the House of Representatives, introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree (R-ME1) and co-sponsored by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA48).

“The introduction of the two bills is encouraging since it is a logical extension of a ruling by a Federal Circuit Court in Maine.” Hines says.

“While overturning a state-passed law that extended a long-standing practice of Maine citizens of personally importing prescription medicines to include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and The United Kingdom, the Court did not suggest that personal importation was unsafe or even illegal, but was the responsibility of the US Congress,” Hines explains.

The Court ruling noted that Congress has in fact acted many times with votes of support for personal importation, that were not fully enacted because of amendments restricting importation by imposition of a ‘certification’ clause.

“Nonetheless, it is obvious that Congress is indeed empowered to enact such legislation,” Hines says.

In a blog at RxforAmericanHealth, Hines presents a list of issues that support the need for a Congressional Caucus:
  • Rising prescription medicine costs that have created awareness of the harmful impact of the predatory pricing practices of Pharma upon Americans’ finances, health and well-being, and that prescription medicine costs are a major driver of health care costs;
  • Taking the responsibility and opportunity created by a Maine Circuit Court ruling earlier this year that ruled that is Congress’ responsibility and is within its authority to determine how personal importation should be implemented, not unelected rules promulgators; 
  • The need and opportunity to act upon the ‘reservoir of good will’ towards personal importation by numerous members of Congress to the benefit of Americans;
  • Pharma’s questionable pricing strategies, including but not limited to, Pay and Delay to protect generics from entering the market; Purchasing products from other companies and then raising the prices; Claiming extraordinary R&D investments when in reality a high percentage of the ‘new’ medicines are created through grants to University laboratories from the National Institute of Health, a governmental and tax-payer-funded entity; 
  • Acknowledging that medicine that is ‘unaffordable’ is equally indeed ‘unavailable’ causing 55 million Americans failure to adhere to their prescribed regimen of taking their medicines simply because they cannot afford them;
  • The potential for FDA abuse of Section 708 of the Food Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) by declaring that a drug may be consider ‘illegal’ because of a slight difference in labeling even though it is a perfectly safe, valid brand-name medicine that is the same as the medicine sold in the US at prices at prices as much as 60 percent higher;
  • The spectacle of the FDA, ostensibly designed to protect the health and well-being of Americans seizing Americans’ medicines and the possible destruction of those medicines, creating untold bad health consequences of Americans being denied access to safe, affordable medicines
“A Congressional Caucus for Personal Importation can ensure that it is Congress, not regulators, that determine what American policy regarding prescription medicines should be,” Hines concludes. “This should be a leading issue for the 2016 elections for all candidates.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time for A Congressional Caucus to support Congress moves on Personal Importation

Publisher’s Note:  In this post, we applaud the introduction of bills in Congress in support of personal importation, while questioning the breadth of Congressional knowledge of the extent of the harmful consequences of protecting the safe haven provided in the US for the highest prescription prices in the Industrial World.  We continue our call for an Rx Bill of Rights for Americans, and urge that Congress form a Congressional caucus for Personal Importation as a first step to ensure that the vast numbers of Americans adversely affected by Pharma pricing have a voice in shaping health policies and continue to utilize the health and fiscal benefits made possible by personal importation.

Some simple questions for Congress:

  • Is it prepared for the spectacle of an agency ostensibly designed to protect the health and well-being of Americans—the FDA—seizing Americans’ medicines, holding them for an individual to ‘appeal’ the seizure (a complete sacrilege of the rights of Americans to due process by making their personal property subject to what are invalid seizures of their personal property, i.e., safe, valid medicines) and then, the eventual possible destruction of those medicines?                                                                       

Now, Congress has once again introduced two bills—S.122, co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and HR 2228, sponsored by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME 1)  Dana Rohranbacher (R-CA 48)

The bills are designed to allow the personal importation of safe, affordable medicines from Canadian pharmacies.

The chances of passage are slim to none according to https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr2228 which gives each bill a less than four percent chance of passage, leading us to our list above of questions for Congress.

We are recommending something more--that the sponsors of the bills send ‘Dear Colleague’ letters and engage in colloquies with their fellow members. Most importantly, we believe it is time for the formation of a Congressional Caucus comprised of Senate and House members to act in support of personal importation legislation, and to also allow Americans a place at the table thereby generating additional awareness of what the consequences will be of Pharma unchecked.  This will, thereby provide the basis for an Rx Bill of Rights for Americans, which could also act as a strategy map for lowering the outrageous pricing practices of Pharma.