Monday, October 17, 2016

Senator Grassley: Competition is key to controlling drug costs, including a role for personal importation of prescription meds

By Senator Chuck Grassley
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Congress must act to use personal importation to lower drug prices
Back to school shopping this year brought sticker shock for families in Iowa and elsewhere. This wasn’t over pencils and notebooks but a life-saving device that kids with severe allergies have to have available at all times. The EpiPen cost has jumped more than 400 percent since 2007. 

Paying as much as $600 per product is a lot of money, especially considering families like one in Polk City, Iowa, with four kids who need EpiPens. 

The shelf life is about a year, so the EpiPen needs to be replaced, and parents try to stock the item in multiple places, like grandma’s house, in case of emergency.

The price increases brought scrutiny on the company, Mylan, that sells EpiPens. Iowans asked me to find out what was going on, and I started asking questions. 

Soon afterward, Mylan announced steps to help patients afford the product: more patient discount coupons and an authorized generic version. Still, the company won’t lower the price, and daily headlines tell us the EpiPen is only one of many prescription medicines busting budgets. So what can and should be done to hold down drug costs?

One of the best ways is to increase competition, where drug companies are encouraged to innovate and produce new products and the marketplace works to drive down prices. 

Driving down prices also requires making sure drug companies are playing fair and not gaming the rules. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission enforce the antitrust laws and investigate anti-competitive behavior. 

Companies aren’t allowed to engage in unfair or deceptive practices that end up harming consumers. The agencies need to be assertive in enforcing these laws.

I’m a co-sponsor of two bipartisan bills that would help address drug company practices that have delayed the availability of generic drugs and kept drug costs high for patients. One is the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act. 

This bill would deter brand name pharmaceutical companies from blocking less expensive generic alternatives from entering the market. The brand companies do this by denying access to the drug samples that generic makers need to develop their generic versions. 

The second bill is the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act. It would help end the practice of brand name and generic manufacturers’ using anti-competitive pay-off agreements to keep more affordable generic equivalents off the market.
Another way to lower costs is making sure drug companies aren’t gaming taxpayer-funded public health care programs. Medicare and Medicaid are big customers for prescription drugs and medical devices. 

When they overpay, the taxpayers overpay, and so do the beneficiaries who face out of pocket copayments. My office found that Mylan relies heavily on Medicare and Medicaid for its EpiPen revenue. Meanwhile, the federal agency that runs those health care programs says Mylan has been overcharging Medicaid for EpiPens. 

This might have cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Where was the federal agency while this was going on? 

The taxpayers are getting short shrift, and the Obama Administration has not done its job here. I’m continuing to ask questions. The Justice Department, and other agencies, now seem to be paying attention.

Yet another way to drive down drug costs is the reimportation of prescription drugs from other countries where product safety and effectiveness can be assured. 

The Food and Drug Administration already has the power to certify the safety of such drugs. The agency hasn’t wanted to use this power for reasons that are unclear.
The FDA also needs to continue to make progress on its backlog of generic drug applications. When a company has submitted an application for a generic product, consumers deserve a timely answer on whether that product is ready for the marketplace. 

And while the FDA’s no. 1 job is protecting public safety, the agency also needs to make sure not to impose unneeded regulations that prevent patients from getting new alterative or generic drugs as soon as possible.


There may be other steps that would ease the sticker shock of sky-high prescription drug prices. In the meantime, I’m working on legislation and oversight efforts that will make a big difference for consumers and the people of Iowa.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ADVOCACY GROUPS LAUNCH JOINT EFFORT TO ENSURE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ADDRESS LOWER DRUG COSTS AT NEXT DEBATE

Effort will give voice to millions of Americans who support access to personal importation of safe, affordable prescriptions

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA, October 5, 2016 /EINPresswire.com/-- A group of patient advocates and businesses representing the right of Americans to engage in the importation of prescription medications from safe, credentialed international pharmacies, today announced joint support of an unprecedented initiative to ensure presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump address the issue of prescription importation at the second presidential debate.
The group includes Daniel Hines, the publisher of TodaysSeniorsNetwork; RxRights.org; the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation, PharmacyChecker.com, and the Prescription Justice Action Group. Together, these organizations represent more than four million Americans who import medication for personal use each year.

A 500 percent increase in the price of the EpiPen® has elevated the issue of high drug prices to the public’s attention and resulted in Congressional hearings on high drug costs in the U.S. The discussion surrounding unaffordable drug prices, however, has focused almost exclusively on long term solutions.

Americans cannot wait for long term solutions. The Commonwealth Fund reports at least 35 million Americans failed to adhere to their prescribed drug regimens in 2014 due to the high cost of their medications. This non-adherence is estimated to cost $100-$300 billion in avoidable healthcare costs in the U.S. annually, according to a study in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy (2014). Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of Americans support access to safe, affordable medications through prescription importation (September, 2016).

The group is asking Americans to support the issue by voting for its importation question through the Open Debate Coalition forum, at https://presidentialopenquestions.com/questions/12064/vote/. It is also encouraging supporters to share their stories on social media and let the moderators of the October 9 presidential debate, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, know that Americans want the presidential candidates to explain how they will provide immediate relief on drug prices and how they’ll fight to increase access to safe, affordable medications through prescription importation. Supporters should use the hashtags #RxAccess and #RxImportation to participate in the discussion.

About TodaysSeniorsNetwork
TodaysSeniorsNetwork , which includes RxforAmericanHealth and the AmericanRxBillofRights, is America's leading information source for seniors an issues facing an aging America. Publisher Daniel Hines, an international award-winning communicator brings his unique perspective to a host of issues based on his extensive work with policy-makers at the local, state and Federal levels, elected officials, seniors' and other advocacy groups, and who has worked extensively on behalf of personal importation of safe, affordable prescription medicines for 15 years. For the official blog, visithttp://www.todaysseniorsnetwork.com and for more information, contact Daniel Hines at 636.399.2849 or todaysseniorsnet@sbcglobal.net. 

About RxRights
RxRights is a national nonprofit coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to raising awareness and spurring action around issues related to U.S. prescription drug pricing. We support the right of Americans to import medicine from legitimate, licensed online and mail order international pharmacies. RxRights.org serves as a forum for individuals to share experiences and voice opinions regarding Americans’ need for affordable prescription drugs. We encourage participation and discussion through our website. For more information visit www.rxrights.org or contact Lee Graczyk: lee@rxrights.org or 1-866-703-5442.

About Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation
Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI) is a national nonprofit patient advocacy organization that advocates for Americans’ access to safe, affordable prescription medications from Canada for personal use. Tens of millions of Americans – especially the elderly and others on fixed incomes – struggle to pay the extremely high price of prescription medications in the U.S. We are here to be a voice for them. For more information visit www.personalimportation.org or contact Rebecca Kelley at info@personalimportation.org or 202.765.3290.

About PharmacyChecker.com
PharmacyChecker.com (www.pharmacychecker.com) is the only independent company that verifies U.S. and international online pharmacies and compares prescription drug prices. Our verifications and price comparisons have been referenced by AARP Magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many others. We were formed in 2002 when our founder, Tod Cooperman, M.D., saw that increasing numbers of Americans were looking on the Internet to save money on medication but did not have adequate information to protect their health. We are a stakeholder in the online consumer-driven healthcare community, seeking an open Internet environment that promotes innovation and new business models, especially those that serve the public health. For more information, contact Gabriel Levitt at 718.387.4526 or Gabriel.levitt@pharmacychecker.com. 

About Prescription Justice Action Group
Prescription Justice Action Group is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to providing relief and protection for American patients. Prescription Justice Action Group brings together doctors, lawyers, public health advocates, and companies dedicated to helping people afford medication. For more information, contact Jodi Dart at 217.306.5823 or jodi@pjag.org.
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Daniel Hines
TodaysSeniorsNetwork
636-399-2849
email us here