The price of the life-saving injection epinephrine, which is prescribed for people with serious allergies, is out of control, surging by 480% since 2009, CBS News reports. But American parents are actually choosing to forgo buying it because of the cost. Enough! For EpiPen Jr, the brand usually prescribed to kids, the lowest price U.S. option found on GoodRx is $614 for a package of two. The lowest price for two injections at a PharmacyChecker.com-approved online pharmacy is just over $200. That means a potential $400 – 66% – savings. Much more than the numbers: for some parents this is the difference between buying or not buying a medication that can save their kid’s life.
By Intropin (Own work), Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons [(CC BY 3.0)]
I’m a parent and this makes me sick and angry. But what will doubly disgust me today is if I read some Pharma-funded bull about unsafe medication in other countries that might scare a parent away from lower cost Epinephrine. This is life and death for kids. Only the truth is acceptable. The EpiPen Jr is marketed by generic drug giant Mylan in the U.S. But lower cost options internationally are either manufactured or licensed by Pfizer, the drug’s innovator, which should take the wind out of the sails of bogus arguments about “foreign drugs.”
Tagged with: Big Pharma, EpiPen, international online pharmacies
Each week I try to come up with a new and compelling blog post to discuss issues involving drug prices and problems Americans are having affording medications. I often find myself resoundingly critical of the pharmaceutical industry and this week I was intrigued but curiously put off to be joined by a pharmacy corporation that made over $100 billion last year.
Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, reported that brand name drugs in the U.S. cost 98.2% (about twice) more on average today than they did in 2011. Last year, brand name drug prices were up 16%. As I read in the Chicago Tribune, Express Scripts used hostile, downright anti-big pharma (and pharmacy) language blaming “opportunistic manufacturers” and “scheming pharmacies.” Rising drug prices of this magnitude are no laughing matter as cash-strapped Americans bear the brunt of these increases, either in higher insurance premiums, co-payments, co-insurance and full cash prices for uninsured (still almost 30 million Americans), or when plans don’t cover certain drugs.
But it is a little funny to hear Express Scripts go after Big Pharma using the rhetoric of greed. After all, PBMs, particularly Express Scripts, are often criticized for their lack of drug pricing transparency and profit-seeking practices, kind of like drug companies and big pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS.
While the focus of Express Scripts’ ire is on brand name drug prices, most of the prescription sales it administers and profits from are generics. On that note, buying generic medication without using your insurance’s PBM is often less expensive than your co-payments. But don’t expect Express Scripts to tell you that.
So that Express Scripts doesn’t feel singled out, we’ve reported on the antics of Big Pharmacy before, including Express Scripts’ biggest competitor. PharmacyChecker CEO Tod Cooperman, MD, was on Fox and Friends not so long ago discussing an investigation of CVS Caremark in which the company was accused of price gouging. The allegation: by not informing its customers that the cash price using CVS’ own discount card program would be lower than co-payments using PBMs, such as CVS Caremark or Express Scripts, hundreds of thousands of customers were overcharged.
On that note: the nuts and bolts message is DON’T BE SHY and ask for the lowest possible price at your local pharmacy.
In defense of Express Scripts, and even CVS Caremark, PBMs and large pharmacy corporations do not yield profit margins even close to those of the biggest drug companies. Furthermore, the pharmacy corporate giant, Express Scripts, is right: the blame for ever increasing drug prices falls on opportunistic manufacturers and scheming pharmacies.
Tagged with: Big Pharma, CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, pharmacy benefit manager, Tod Cooperman
The prescription narcotic epidemic in America is banging on our national consciousness, almost as loudly as the issue of skyrocketing drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry and its front groups have tried in the past to conflate safe international online pharmacies with the illegal and dangerous online sale of controlled drugs, including prescription narcotics, and I’ve called them out over the years. Safe international online pharmacies do not sell prescription narcotics at all. But, unlike safe international online pharmacies, which sell non controlled medications at much lower prices, is Big Pharma pushing narcotics and fueling drug addiction in America? Apparently, yes.
As reported in The Fix, a documentary film called “Prescription Thugs” explores the connection between the pharmaceutical industry, the power it wields in Congress, and the painkiller addiction epidemic. It is the story of people who were introduced to painkillers when their doctors prescribed them, only to find themselves addicted. For years, the industry was making a certain formulation of the popular prescription opiate OxyContin that was easily abused by addicts and therefore driving astronomical sales. When a new form of the drug made it harder to crush and therefore inject intravenously, its sales tanked by 80%. You can view the film’s trailer at http://www.prescriptionthugs.com/.
Tagged with: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, Big Pharma, controlled drugs, Partnership for Safe Medicines, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Unfortunately, public scrutiny about high drug prices doesn’t usually lead to legislative fixes, such as passing legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and expand the practice of safe personal drug importation so more consumers access lower prices from foreign pharmacies. On the other hand, a New York Times article – “Even Talking About Reducing Drug Prices Can Reduce Drug Prices” – suggests, well, that “talking about” drug prices can reduce them, because pharma executives get scared that if they don’t moderate drug prices, more permanent and progressive fixes will finally happen.
Tagged with: Bernie Sanders, Big Pharma, Drug Prices, Hilary Clinton, House Committee on Government and Oversight, Marco Rubio, Martin Shkreli, Medicare Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, Medicare Part D, New York Times
A paid “news release” this week by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) and LegitScript and widely disseminated by PR Newswire’s MultiView – deceitfully and incorrectly associated PharmacyChecker.com with a federal indictment involving the wholesale operations of a Canadian company. [UPDATE: After PR Newswire was informed by our attorneys of the libelous nature of the ASOP/LegitScript news release, PR Newswire removed it. The release had appeared at http://www.multivu.com/players/English/7602051-asop-doj-indictment-prescription-drugs/ ]
A former consultant to PharmacyChecker.com was, unfortunately, swept up in this indictment for an action having nothing to do with his work with PharmacyChecker.com (see our posting about the indictment) [UPDATE: The charges against this individual were dismissed on October 20].
But even though PharmacyChecker, nor any of its executives or employees, are the subject of the recent indictment or even mentioned in it, ASOP and LegitScript, who we see as sharks for Big Pharma and Big Pharmacy, could not resist throwing a public relations party, which we believe is aimed at manipulating the media and reporters, government, and worse – consumers! It appears that they spent a lot of money on a PR firm, ECI Communications, to put together and disseminate lies about PharmacyChecker.com and misleading information about international online pharmacies.
Want proof? After reading ASOP and LegitScript’s deceitfully misleading news release, a writer at the publication Medicine Marketing & Media was apparently duped into writing on Wednesday that PharmacyChecker was being indicted! After we contacted that publication about the inaccuracy, we were swiftly given an apology, the article was corrected, and the following statement posted: “CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed PharmacyChecker.com as a defendant. PharmacyChecker.com is not a defendant in the case.
A renowned expert in First Amendment Law considers the news release “libelous” and ASOP, LegitScript, and ECI have been asked to take it down. PR Newswire has also been asked to remove it, as it appears to violate PR Newswire’s own guidelines regarding libelous content and this certainly doesn’t help their existing reputation for distributing “low quality content.” However, perhaps due to the enormous funding behind these groups, they have yet to make any attempt to correct the situation. We’ll see how much they care about the truth by their actions.
It’s important to keep in mind who these groups are. ASOP’s members and funders include large pharmaceutical companies and the National Association of Chain Drugstores. To protect their bottom lines, these companies and ASOP lobby congress and federal agencies, such as the FDA, to try to curtail your access to much more affordable and safe medication from outside the U.S. In fact, ASOP is actually located in the offices of the government relations and communications consulting firm FraegreBD, where ASOPs executive director, also happens to be a Vice President. And ECI Communications is a PR firm which does extensive business for U.S. pharmaceutical companies. Of course LegitScript.com happens to be a founding member of ASOP. Can we trust LegitScript.com or ASOP? Well, you already know who ASOP works for, right? On the other hand, much of LegitScript.com’s income is from a contract with the FDA for $5.2 million. That’s not bad in and of itself but, if that money is being used to spread misinformation to U.S. consumers and lobby congress and maybe even the FDA itself, then that stinks.
The truth is that American consumers are buying medication from outside the U.S., five million of them each year, because many of them can’t afford prices in the U.S. Since 2003, PharmacyChecker.com has been working hard to publish information that helps Americans find safe and affordable medication from these pharmacies. Yet it seems the only safe online pharmacy to ASOP is one that is approved by LegitScript.com, which in turn believes that every pharmacy outside the U.S. that sells into the U.S. including licensed pharmacies in Canada, are not “legitimate” or are “rogue.”
ASOP’s and LegitScript’s vision of “legitimacy” is a nightmare for Americans! Thirty-five million Americans don’t fill a script each year because of cost. A safe online pharmacy is not safe for a consumer who can’t afford the medications it sells. ASOP, LegitScript, the NABP, FDA, etc., can’t wish away the fact that safe international online pharmacies are a lifeline for many American consumers. Scaring these Americans away from safe pharmacy options with misleading and false information means that more Americans will go without their prescribed medications. There is nothing “safe” or “legit” about that.
Tagged with: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, ASOP, Big Pharma, consumers, indictment