It is well known that Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Representative Tom Price (R-GA) wants to essentially abolish Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. During his campaign and as late as January 11, Trump promised to change the policy that blocks Medicare from negotiate drug prices to reduce costs. …
Tag: Pharmaceutical Companies
John Oliver opened the second season of HBO’s “This Week Tonight” with a humorous but sobering segment on how big pharmaceutical companies market their drugs to doctors, spending an estimated $24 billion per year in direct marketing. In his witty but serious way, he explains that 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and spent $329 billion, $1000 per person, on those medications in 2013. John quipped, “Walter White could have made more money cooking up rheumatoid arthritis medication.”
Big Pharma tactics include everything from lunch, to sexy sales reps to expensive dinners with other doctors who pitch the sale as “thought leaders.” The drugs are often pushed for “off label” use, that is, use that the FDA has not approved and most of the reps know very little, if anything, about the drugs that they’re pushing.
Drug companies are like high school boyfriends, they’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.
One a the good things that the Affordable Care Act did is it created a web site, OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov that which enables average citizens a chance to search for perks given to doctors by pharmaceutical companies.
From 2000 to 2009, Pharmaceutical companies reaped $690 billion in mergers and only invested 10% of that on research to find cures for 90% of the world’s diseases. The Unites States rank #1 in the amount that is spent on health care but only #37 when it comes to the quality of that care.
Author and medical ethicist, Harriet A. Washington’s recent book “Deadly Monopolies”, delves into the corporate takeover of the medical industry that is affecting the healthcare system and the future of medicine. The book also examines the role of medical patents in slowing U.S. research and inflate drug costs. Ms. Washington joined Dylan Ratigan and his panel to discuss “Big Pharma” and big profits.
You can read an adapted exert from “Deadly Monopolies” here
One of the diseases and its cure that it touched upon in this discussion is Human African trypanosomiasis HAT, or sleeping sickness. Second stage sleeping sickness is treated with eflornithine, which is given in 4 intravenous infusions daily for 14 days.
A little side story of Eflornithine and the fight that WHO and an NGO waged to get it produced. The drug was originally developed as a cancer treatment by Merrell Dow Research Institute in the late ’70’s. It wasn’t very effective as a cancer treatment but was found to reduce hair growth and, inadvertently, very a effective treatment for HAT. Eventually, it was developed and marketed as a prescription cream, Vaniqa, to treat women with excessive facial hair by the Gillette company.
The drug was registered for the treatment of gambiense HAT in 1990. However, in 1995 Aventis (now Sanofi-Aventis) stopped producing the drug, whose main market was African countries, because it didn’t make a profit. Production for the drug requires a separate facility because the process is very corrosive.
In 2001, Aventis (now Sanofi-Aventis) and the WHO formed a five-year partnership, during which more than 320,000 vials of pentamidine, over 420,000 vials of melarsoprol, and over 200,000 bottles of eflornithine were produced by Sanofi-Aventis, to be given to the WHO and distributed by the association Médecins Sans Frontières in countries where the sleeping sickness is endemic.
According to Médecins Sans Frontières, this only happened after “years of international pressure”, and coinciding with the period when media attention was generated because of the launch of the eflornithine-based product, Vaniqa, geared to prevention of facial-hair in women), while its life-saving formulation was not being produced.
From 2001, when production was restarted, through 2006, 14 million diagnoses were made. This greatly contributed to stemming the spread of sleeping sickness, and to saving nearly 110,000 lives. This changed the epidemiological profile of the disease, meaning that eliminating it altogether can now be envisaged.
There are over 15,000 clinics and hospitals in this country, which get their drugs for poorer patients from a government discount – drug act which was created in 1992. They spend over $6 billion, and they are supposed to get a discount of 30% to 50% off.
During the past 8 years, (that’s mostly during the Bush administration 2002 – , with some overlap into the 3rd Term of Bipartisanbamaship ) the inspector general for HHS noticed drug manufacturers were overcharging their customers, but not getting dinged for it and being motivated to be good contractors.
Ted Slafsky, executive director of Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access — which represents 600 hospitals in the program — said that “manufacturers have been able to overcharge covered entities with impunity.”
Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County in California sued Astra Zeneca USA. This upset Big Pharma.
In Dec 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of San Francisco ruled that clinics and hospitals could sue.
The Supreme Court is asked to rule next.
The U.S. Department of Justice, Eric Holder, Attorney General, under the Presidency of Barack Obama, is now siding with the Pharmaceutical companies to overturn that decision, and telling the Supreme Court they don’t want counties and clinics suing over drug price rip offs. Per the DOJ, only the Federal Government (not meaning Congress, I guess, but the secret deal maker- in – chief) had the authority to enforce the law.