This week I’m down in Washington, DC, talking to policy-makers and activists, setting off alarm bells about Big Pharma’s campaign to not only kill prescription importation legislation but also the ability for Americans to currently buy medications from Canada and elsewhere at all. I have a feeling Big Pharma knows I’m here, which is kind of cool (but also freaks me out because they are very powerful and we are not). Here’s the very quick story.
When I searched “pharmacychecker” in Google I noticed the top advertisement was placed by none other than the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (“Big Pharma”). That ad doesn’t show up in Brooklyn where I live but appears targeted in Google to the DC area. They know that our pricing information, verification work we do for patient safety, and advocacy is compelling to some public policy and healthcare advocates down here, so they pay Google to get their message on top. As if Big Pharma’s 1100 lobbyists aren’t enough!
It’s a badge of honor (but there’s no sleep til Brooklyn).
Who are you representing?
In 2001, in a Wall Street Journal article called “Survey Shows U.S. Customs Allows Illegal Foreign Medication,” then Congressman James Greenwood (R-PA) expressed his belief that Americans who import medications, even illegally, for their own use, should be able to. As president and chief executive of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), which represents leading biopharmaceutical companies (such as Abbvie, Amgen, Celgene, and Gilead), he has changed his tune.
Flashback to 2001…
Congressman Greenwood, who chaired the House Commerce oversight committee, stuck up for cash strapped older Americans. Congressman Greenwood said:
“While we would like to stop dangerous drugs from being brought in for abuse and stop people from getting drugs that are counterfeit or bogus, we don’t want to interfere … with an older person getting a better buy.”
He was referring to Americans importing small quantities of non-controlled, prescription drugs for their own use because they cost a lot less money than at U.S. pharmacies.
Fast forward to 2017… (more…)
Tagged with: bio, biotechnology innovation organization, james greenwood
Will drug price angst unite America?
The executive director of Prescription Justice, Jodi Dart, published an op-ed in Morning Consult earlier this week called The Rx Rip-Off. The piece does contain Ms. Dart’s opinions but there are also some facts reported, ones based on a Zogby poll on drug prices commissioned by Prescription Justice. The poll shows that 90% of Americans are united on the need for the government to take action to make medication more affordable! As an incredible coincidence, President Trump tweeted just hours after the op-ed was published that “Pricing for the American people will come way down!”
There’s a lot in this poll that I look forward to writing about but let’s consider some of the broad findings of the poll:
- 75.5% of Americans agree with President Trump that the “drug companies are getting away with murder:
- 29.6% of Americans say they have not filled a prescription because of cost.
- 4.2% say they currently get prescription medication from a Canadian or other international online pharmacy.
- 77% of respondents who had an opinion on the issue of importation laws (522 out of 674) supported reforms so that consumers could lawfully purchase medicines from Canada or other countries.
- Only 15% of respondents were actually against legalizing personal drug importation (23% of those who had an opinion).
Source: Zogby Analytics, margin of error +/- 3.1%: http://prescriptionjustice.org/Prescription_Justice_Zogby_Poll_Data_Feb_2017.pdf.
Tagged with: jodi dart, morning consult, poll, prescription justce, public opinion, trump, zogby
Since Americans started importing medications for personal use in larger numbers at the beginning of the last decade, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Big Pharma, has engaged in media and government relations scare tactics to try and stop them. Apparently, when it comes to foreign versions of the new FDA-Approved Emflaza, which treats Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, one board member of PhRMA supports importation!
Last week, I wrote about the decision of drug company Marathon Pharmaceuticals to postpone selling Emflaza over pricing concerns and how the issue shines a bright light on the benefits of personal drug importation. To summarize: some folks are outraged because Emflaza (deflazacort) was launched at a price of $89,000 for a one year supply. This seems insane when foreign versions of deflazacort, which cost 1% that amount (less than $1000), are already imported for personal use.
PhRMA is trying to distance itself from Marathon, just like it did with Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turning Pharmaceuticals, when the price of Daraprim jumped from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight. The CEO of Marathon, Jeff Aronin, however, sits on PhRMA’s Board of Directors! Last week, John Carroll of Endpoints News predicted last week that Aronin might be dropped. As of today, he’s still there.
Mr. Aronin wrote a letter to the Duchenne community that fully acknowledged American kids were already being treated with an unapproved foreign version of deflazacort. In his words: “As we all know, deflazacort was being used without FDA approval — and without ever having been approved anywhere in the world for Duchenne — by a very small group of patients (roughly 7 to 9 percent) in the Duchenne community who imported it from overseas.”
But does he support it? I mean, after all, the “score” for Marathon is that once it’s available for sale in the U.S., it will be purchased here. At least for the time being, this PhRMA board member does support it and seems to have no concern whatsoever whether the foreign version is safe and effective, not should he, since, like other medications, it was approved for safety and efficacy elsewhere. In noting that Marathon will “pause our commercialization” of Emflaza,” maintain its Expanded Access Patient Assistance Program, Aronin also state: “Patients currently receiving deflazacort from other sources may continue to have that option.” Damn right.
Is it hypocritical of PhRMA to diss Marathon? After all, brand drug companies jacked prices 130 times the inflation rate in 2015. Forty-five million Americans didn’t fill a prescription in 2016 due to cost. PhRMA will continue its practice of legal bribery and unleash a new, shiny PR campaign about life sciences and innovation — to prevent legislative and regulatory reforms that would lower drug prices. It’s going to take an unpredictable, unexpected populist wave of American anger at drug companies to bring their house down. In the meantime, maybe the people will take a hint from one PhRMA board member and import unapproved and lower cost medications.
Tagged with: aronin, Big Pharma, deflazacort, emflaza, marathon, phrma
Can Big Pharma Help Me Afford My Meds?
People who are not new to this blog know that we are often critical of the pharmaceutical industry because of their actions to stop Americans from buying lower cost medications from international online pharmacies. So, this may come as a surprise…
Today, we announced that we have added a new section on PharmacyChecker.com for consumers to search, find and apply to patient assistance programs, those sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. You can type in the name of your medication and review a very comprehensive collection of these programs, including low-cost, no-cost, and copay programs. The eligibility hurdles are often prohibitive: so please understand that for many programs, if you’re currently earning above the median income in the U.S. it’s likely that you are too rich. (more…)
Don’t blame poor little Big Pharma
Big Pharma is in the mood to share! A new report commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade association representing the world’s largest global pharmaceutical companies, seems to assert that the blame for high drug prices should be shared with pharmacy benefit managers, retail pharmacies, wholesalers, and, I think, even hospitals – and more. It appears that PhRMA’s main target is the pharmaceutical benefit managers.
Noting that President Donald Trump recently said drug companies are “getting away with murder” – I view this report as pharma’s attempt to communicate, “hey, prez, we’re not alone here in being greedy.” The report has merit, which I’ll explain below when looking at the dollar numbers. But as far as the American consumer is concerned: murder is murder. Hey, I’m just using the president’s words. Due to the killing made by pharma and friends (because they’re all friends), 10s of millions of Americans are leaving their scripts unfilled because the prices, one way or the other, are out of reach.
The report is called “The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: Gross Drug Expenditures Realized by Stakeholders.” You can find a summary of it here but this is my take on it. (more…)
Tagged with: phrma, supply chain