Perspectives: Notion That Drug Costs In The United States Are Determined By Open Competition Is Fiction

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

The New York Times:
What Trump Should Actually Do About The High Cost Of Drugs

A Big Mac costs $4.40 in Britain, a ticket to see the latest superhero movie is $10 in Spain, and an iPad Pro sells for about $800 in Switzerland — prices that do not differ that much from those in New York City. But if you’re suffering from ovarian cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, the prices in the United States for leading medicines are at least twice what those same drugs cost in those other nations. The fact that Americans pay more for their drugs has long spurred anger and questions about why we spend so much. Seniors crossing the border in buses to fill their drug prescriptions in Canada or Mexico is a perennial news story. (Thomas J. Bollyky, Aaron S. Kesselheim and Joshua M. Sharfstein, 5/14)

How To Make A Dent In Crazy-High Drug Prices

There’s no good reason to pay a lot for prescription drugs that don’t work well. But that’s what lots of Americans are doing.Some drug prices far outweigh any reasonable measure of the drug’s benefit. This is frequently the case for new cancer therapies. For example, the cancer drug Erbitux costs about $10,000 per month and extends life by an average of about three months when used to treat patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck. And the launch price of new cancer drugs is going up 12 percent a year even though the drugs aren’t getting commensurately better. In one recent estimate, the cost of extending a cancer patient’s life by one year is increasing by $8,500 every year. (Austin Frakt, 5/11)

Los Angeles Times:
Where Do Prescription Drugs Come From? Good Luck Answering That Question

Frances Richmond, chairwoman of the Department of Regulatory and Quality Sciences at USC’s School of Pharmacy, told me that because all facets of the supply chain must meet strict FDA safety standards, it shouldn’t matter to consumers where drugs or their ingredients originate. But she acknowledged that some drug companies probably don’t want people knowing that 80% of active ingredients — yes, 80% — come from China and India. (David Lazarus, 5/15)

The Daily Caller:
Trump’s Missed Opportunity On Drug Pricing

President Trump last Friday unveiled a plan to, “Bring soaring drug prices back down to earth.” Acknowledging that the current system is broken, with drug prices beyond the reach of many patients, the President’s plan targets drug patents, pharmacy benefits managers, and drug pricing negotiated by foreign countries. Yet he misses one of the big elephants in the room, the fact that here in the US, Medicare is forbidden to negotiate what they pay for prescription drugs. Back in 2016, he was on the same page with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, wanting a change in the 2003 law banning Medicare from negotiating drug prices. (Brian Joondeph, 5/16)

Bangor Daily News:
Want To Lower Drug Prices? Let Medicare Negotiate.

The price of brand name drugs have increased nearly 300 percent since 2010. The price of one drug used to treat multiple sclerosis increased by more than 3,000 percent, a recent study found. Because of the high cost of prescription drugs, many Americans don’t take their medication as prescribed, which can worsen their symptoms and delay recovery. So, it is no surprise that drug prices are a top concern for many Americans. (5/15)

’60 Minutes’ Was Right About Huge Drug Prices, But Wrong About The Villain

Last Sunday, CBS’ “60 Minutes” covered a budget crisis in the small town of Rockford, Ill., sparked by an unexpected increase in health coverage for town employees. The problem: a surprise new bill for $500,000, the price for a year’s supply of one drug for two children. The town is scrambling to cut police and firefighting budgets to cover the cost. The company that makes this drug had the presence of mind to dodge an interview with correspondent Leslie Stahl. This deprived TV viewers of the image of suits stammering why they raised prices on children from $40 a vial to $40,000, or perhaps Stahl leading the sweating CEO on a tour of the town’s abandoned firehouse. Still, the villain of this story was clear: a greedy drug maker. (Leah Binder, 5/11)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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