Thursday, October 29, 2015

AHF to Submit 550,000 Signatures for 2016 Drug Pricing Ballot Measure in California

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct 29, 2015--Drug pricing advocates affiliated with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) announce they will file close to 550,000 signatures of registered California voters with state election officials by Monday, November 2 nd in order to qualify The California Drug Price Relief Act, a statewide ballot initiative that will revise California law to require state programs to pay no more for prescription medications than the prices negotiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The V.A. generally pays 20% to 24% less than any government program. The advocates intend to qualify the measure for the November 2016 presidential election ballot in California.

Separately, advocates from AHF and ‘Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices’ have been collecting voter signatures in Ohio for a similar drug pricing ballot measure since mid-August. 

State officials approved petition language in early August. Both the California and Ohio measures are expected to qualify for, and appear on the November 2016 presidential election ballots in their respective states.

The California Drug Price Relief Act

To qualify the California measure, 365,880 valid signatures of registered voters are needed (5% of all votes cast for governor in the most recent statewide election, which was held in November 2014). 

However, as a cushion, advocates, who began collecting signatures in early April, will continue to collect signatures up until the October filing deadlines. Signatures are to be submitted to the respective counties statewide, and after signature certification, the ballot measure is expected to be placed on the November 2016 California ballot.

“As of August 16 th, we had already collected enough signatures to qualify our California ballot measure, which, when passed by voters in November 2016, will compel state officials to obtain V.A. pricing—by far, the lowest pricing available to any government agency—for the purchase of prescription drugs for use in state programs,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the citizen proponents of the California measure. 

“If California—and Ohio—are able to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the amounts paid by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it would result in significant savings to taxpayers. These ballot initiatives are necessary and appropriate to address public concern about runaway drug pricing.”

“Nationally, prescription drug spending increased more than 800 percent between 1990 and 2013, making this one of the fastest-growing segments of health care,” said Tracy Jones, Executive Director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and one of the citizen proponents of the Ohio measure. 

“Spending on specialty medications, in particular, such as those used to treat HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and cancers, are rising faster than other types of medications. In 2014 alone, total spending on specialty medications increased by more than 23 percent. 

"And although Ohio has engaged in efforts to reduce prescription drug costs through rebates, drug manufacturers are still able to charge the state more than other government payers for the same medications, resulting in a dramatic imbalance that must be rectified. 

"That is why we are mounting this initiative, bringing the critical issue to legislators and, if necessary, directly to Ohio voters if the legislature fails to act.”

The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act

On August 3 rd, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine approved petition language for a similar drug pricing ballot initiative in Ohio seeking Department of Veterans Affairs pricing for state programs. On August 13th, the Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed statute as a single issue. As a result, that measure, backed by AHF and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, was cleared for signature gathering—an effort that will begin in earnest today in Ohio.

According to the Cleveland.com website (the Northeast Ohio Media Group), “ Supporters can now begin collecting the 91,677 signatures of registered Ohio voters required to put the issue before the Ohio General Assembly. 

State lawmakers would then have four months to act on the legislation. If they reject or change the proposed law, supporters then have the chance to collect another 91,677 signatures to put the issue before voters.”

According to the Ohio petition language, “The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act would enact Section 194.01 of the Ohio Revised Code to require that notwithstanding any other provision of law and in so far as permissible under federal law, the State of Ohio shall not enter into any agreement for the purchase of prescription drugs or agree to pay, directly or indirectly, for prescription drugs, including where the state is the ultimate payer, unless the net cost is the same or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”


AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 492,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. 

To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prescription Drug Costs Remain Atop the Public’s National Health Care Agenda, Well Ahead of Affordable Care Act Revisions and Repeal

28% of Public Report Asking Doctor about a Drug They Saw Advertised, and 12% Say Their Doctor Prescribed It

Few Workers Expect Raises if Employers Reduce Health Benefits to Avoid Cadillac Tax as Many Economists Predict

October 28, 2015--With some presidential candidates laying out details of their health care platforms, the cost of prescription drugs remains at the top of the public’s health care priority list for the President and Congress, the October Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds.

Making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer, are affordable for those who need them is the top priority, picked by more than three quarters of the public (77%). It was the top priority of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, with at least seven in 10 of each group citing it.

The public ranks government action to lower prescription drug costs second, with 63 percent saying it is a top priority, including a majority of Republicans (56%).  That’s similar to the share of Republicans who say repealing the entire Affordable Care Act is a top priority (58%).

Other priorities picked by more than half of the public include assuring provider networks are adequate, protections against surprise out of network bills, and increasing price and quality transparency.

In contrast, issues specific to the Affordable Care Act, such as repealing several of its provisions or the entire law, fall lower on the list. For example, while the public generally opposes the so-called Cadillac tax on more expensive employer health plans, just 30 percent pick eliminating it as a top priority, ranking it 12th on the poll’s priority list.

Economists generally believe that employers will raise workers’ wages if they reduce the cost of their health benefits to avoid the Cadillac tax. The poll finds few people with employer-sponsored coverage expect that to happen. Just 20 percent think their wages would increase if their employer offered less generous health benefits, while three quarters (76%) think wages would not increase.

Favorable and unfavorable views of the ACA overall were tied this month, with 42 percent holding each view. Compared to when most of the law’s provisions were just taking effect in early 2014, more now say their impression of the law is based on their own experience (35% now, up from 23% in February 2014), while fewer say it is based on what they’ve seen in the media (30% now, down from 44% in February 2014).

The survey also probes the public’s experiences with drug advertisements. A large majority (82%) report they’ve seen or heard such advertising, and 28 percent say they have talked with a doctor about a specific drug they saw advertised.

One in eight adults (12%) say they were given a specific drug after asking a doctor about its advertisements;15 percent say the doctor recommended changes in their behavior or lifestyle;14 percent say the doctor recommended a different prescription drug, and 11 percent say the doctor recommended an over-the-counter option. These findings are similar to the results of previous Kaiser polling in 2008.

About half of the public (51%) say prescription drug advertising is mostly a good thing. Half (50%) also say drug advertisements do a good or excellent job of telling consumers which condition or disease the drug is designed to treat, and nearly as many say the ads do at least a good job telling consumers about the potential benefits (47%) and potential side effects (44%).

The poll also finds a majority (57%) believes that drug companies spend too much money advertising to patients. A similar majority says the same about money spent marketing to doctors (62%), and two thirds (67%) say drug companies have a lot of influence over what doctors prescribe to their patients. In addition, 89 percent of the public favor having the Food and Drug Administration review drug ads for accuracy and clarity before the public sees them, something it does not do now.


The poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted from October 14 to 20, 2015 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,203 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (481) and cell phone (722). 

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

Three steps to increase access to affordable prescription drugs

By Senator Amy Klobuchar, (Democrat- MN)

Modern medicine is performing miracles every day. From a new type of chemotherapy that helps a patient fight cancer to pain medications that provide relief to those suffering from arthritis, we are living in the midst of a "golden age" for pharmaceutical research and medical innovation. But we recently received a powerful reminder that not everyone has the same opportunity to benefit from today's medical marvels.

Last month, Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Daraprim - a lifesaving drug used to treat an infection called toxoplasmosis - by more than 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750. 

This case is particularly shocking, and after a public outcry, Turing ultimately agreed to lower the drug's price. But this isn't a new phenomenon, it's just the latest chapter in the history of a broken system. In 2011, Ovation Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Indocin IV - a critical medicine that helps save the lives of premature babies - by nearly 1,300 percent.

The sky-high cost of prescription drugs is hurting families in Minnesota and across the country. Kyle, a 25-year-old from Roseville with Type I Diabetes, is paying about $4,000 out of pocket each year for the insulin and pump he needs. 

That's a hefty $300 per month bill for someone just starting out in his career. Joyce, a retiree, lost her husband to complications from diabetes, but not before the family paid tens of thousands of dollars a year in prescription drug costs.

Kyle and Joyce are not alone. A recent study showed that one out of four Americans whose prescription drug costs went up said they were unable to pay their medical bills and one out of five were forced to skip doses of their medication. 

Seven percent of people even missed a mortgage payment due to the increase in their prescription drug costs. That's just not right, and our country should do better.

In the United States, we spend about 40 percent more per person each year on pharmaceuticals than any other country. Though many factors contribute to the prescription drug cost crisis we're facing, there are three big things that we can do to address the problem.

First, we need to ensure that consumers are not prevented from purchasing cheaper generic versions of the drugs they need because of harmful "pay-for-delay" deals that keep less expensive generic drugs from entering the market. 

These deals happen when a brand-name drug company pays a generic drug competitor not to sell its products. These "deals" stifle competition and keep affordable generics out of the hands of patients who need them. 

To crack down on this behavior, I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa that will give the Federal Trade Commission more power to block these anti-competitive agreements.

Our neighbors to the north in Canada often pay significantly less for prescription drugs than we do. In 2012, average prescription drug prices were half as expensive in Canada as they were in America. 

This staggering difference motivated me to introduce a bipartisan bill with Sen. John McCain of Arizona that would require the Food and Drug Administration to establish a personal importation program that would allow Americans to safely import a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from an approved Canadian pharmacy.

Finally, while Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs can currently negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, the law bans Medicare from doing so. 

This is a bad policy for our seniors and for taxpayers. That is why I introduced legislation to allow Medicare to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts. 

My bill would save Medicare billions of dollars and help cut costs for more than 37 million seniors across the country.

Whether battling a serious disease or taking medication for a chronic condition, everyone deserves access to the prescription drugs that can help them live a long and healthy life. These commonsense solutions will help ensure that Americans have access to the drugs they need at prices they can afford.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ohio’s Senator Brown introduces Medicare Drug Negotiation Bill

October 14, 2015– As more companies buy the rights to old, existing drugs then raise prices overnight, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) unveiled a plan to save taxpayer dollars and lower drug prices for seniors. A recent report from the Plain Dealer revealed that price increases have cost the Cleveland Clinic $11 million and University Hospitals $3.6 million – impacting costs for everything from cancer care to emergency medicine.

“Seniors on Medicare face skyrocketing bills for lifesaving drugs that they can’t afford and some insurance companies have stopped covering their drugs altogether,” Brown said. “This isn’t right, and it must stop. That’s why I helped introduce the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act. Giving Medicare the authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies will help seniors get the best prices for these critical prescription drugs. Seniors should be able to get drug coverage directly through Medicare – not be forced to buy from a middle man.”

During a press conference in Cleveland today, Brown was joined by Charmaine Szanyi-Hrusch, a retired teacher from North Ridgeville whose prescription drug prices have recently tripled and Ernest Boyd, a pharmacist who discussed how Brown’s legislation would help keep costs under control.

“Senator Brown is attacking an issue that impacts older Americans’ health very directly,” Boyd said. “Pharmacists are having hundreds of patients tell them that they cannot afford the drug or the copayment. It is critical we get this problem under control.”

Brown outlined legislation he cosponsored that would help rein in costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the best prescription medication prices, lowering drug prices for seniors enrolled in Medicare prescription drug coverage. The Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act would help keep costs down for Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D by requiring the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate the best prescription medication prices for seniors.

Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so. The bill would require the HHS Secretary to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices even though the government can often negotiate bigger discounts than private insurance companies.



Monday, October 12, 2015

Settlement reflects vulnerability of Personal Importation safety critics as example of 'people who live in glass houses'

Publisher's Note:  The beneficial contribution of personal importation of safe, authentic brand-name medicines from Tier One Pharmacies has long been a target of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) on the grounds that there was no efficient oversight provided that could 'guarantee' the safety of the medicines nor the operations of the dispensing pharmacies although the medicines would be dispensed from licensed, registered pharmacies in Tier One Countries whose standards of safety and efficacy meet or exceed those of the U.S. 

Settlements such as this one as part of an earlier $1.6 billion settlement that Abbott Laboratories for making false claims about its anti-epileptic drug Depakote indicates that the criticisms of the NABP are those of people living in glass houses, and that their industry and that of Pharma are often, in and of themselves, in violation of U.S. law, leading to questions of the efficacy of NABP , as well as the oversight it offers on the ethics of Pharma and too many pharmacies.

This, in turn, demands additional oversight into the potential for negative impact upon the health and well-being of untold numbers of Americans, especially those among the most vulnerable as America's Aging population.

The news release below, illustrates this potential for abuse by Pharma and in this instance, PharMerica Corp.  Add to this the failed oversight provided by a state's Board of Pharmacy in allowing the continued manufacture of unsafe compounded medicines, and we believe the vulnerability of the NABP opposition to personal importation of brand-name prescription medicines from registered pharmacies in Tier One Countries is self-apprent:


WASHINGTON, October 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Long Term Care Pharmacy – PharMerica Corp.- has agreed to pay$9.25 million to settle allegations that it violated the federal false claims act and similar state false claims acts by receiving kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories to promote the anti-epileptic drug, Depakote.

The settlement resolves claims that were part of a 2007 lawsuit filed by false claims act whistleblower, Meredith McCoyd. Claims made initially by McCoyd against Abbott were resolved as part of a $1.6 billion settlement in 2012.
The case is entitled, U.S. ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs. et al., No. 1:07-cv-00081 (W.D. Va.). 

Reuben Guttman and Traci Buschner of Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC (GBB) in Washington, D.C. have been lead counsel for Ms. McCoyd throughout the litigation, including the initial $1.6 billion settlement.  Firm senior counsel and medical director, Caroline Poplin, M.D., was also part of the GBB team representing McCoyd.

"This case highlights mismanagement of medical care for the nation's elderly," said Reuben Guttman. "It is really a case about paying to put drugs in the bodies of patients who were without the ability to engage in informed consent."
"Congressional oversight of the nursing home industry is in order," said Traci Buschner.

Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC is a leading firm representing whistleblowers. http://gbblegal.com/

Attorneys from the firm have represented whistleblowers in the following cases:  U.S. ex rel. Doghramji et al. v. Community Health Services, Inc. et al. (M.D. Tenn.)($97 million government recovery in 2014); U.S. ex rel. Sandler and Paris v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals et al (W.D. Okla.)($257 million civil government recovery in 2013); U.S. ex rel. Graydon v. GlaxoSmithKline (D. Mass)($1.04 billion dollar government recovery in 2012); U.S. ex rel. Demott v. Pfizer (D. Mass)($2.3 billion government recovery in 2009); U.S. ex rel. Szymoniak v. Bank of America et al, (D.S.C./W.D.N.C.) ($95 million government recovery in 2012); U.S. ex rel. Kurnik v. Amgen et al., (D.S.C.)($24.9 million government recovery in 2013.)