When you hear the words “drug profiteering,” there’s a good chance you picture the sneering face of Martin Shkreli.
As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli took Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750.00… in one fell swoop. Overnight, Shkreli became the man Americans loved to hate.
But his price hike wasn’t the biggest news on Daraprim. Because even the $13.50 price was way out of line. At the time Shkreli boosted the drug’s price, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) was paying the equivalent of 66 cents per pill.
Yes… 66 cents. That’s more than 20 times less than the U.S. price. Before the boost.
According to Scientific American magazine, Americans pay triple the British price for the world’s 20 most-prescribed drugs.
The Wall Street Journal compared 54 international drug prices in 2015. The U.S. had the highest prices for all but four of those drugs.
Why are you paying so much for your prescriptions? It’s a bit complicated… but the main reason is easy to understand: Greed. And it’s not just the drug companies behind these prices. Congress has a hand in keeping drug prices artificially high.
Here’s what you should know…
Your Health Safety Net Has Some Holes in It
Before we go any further, I should explain… I’m not a fan of big government. But I am a fan of honest government. And when it comes to healthcare, that doesn’t seem to be what we have.
Back in 2003, the United States Congress passed a law that prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices. If that sounds crazy, it is.
In 2009, 44 million Americans depended on Medicare for their health insurance. By 2030, that number will be 79 million.
Imagine combining the buying power of 79 million people… or even just 44 million. Medicare enrollees use almost a third of all the prescription drugs in the U.S. No drug company could stay in business if they refused to deal with a negotiating block that big.
Virtually every other developed country uses this strategy to negotiate prices well below those in the U.S. Why shouldn’t Medicare be able to do the same?
Especially when both the Veteran’s Administration and Medicaid can – and pay significantly less for many drugs than Medicare does. (On average, Medicare pays 73% more than Medicaid and 80% more than the Veterans’ Administration for the same drugs.)
That’s where greed comes in. According to Mother Jones magazine, the drug industry made over $147 million in political contributions between 2003 and 2016. In addition, drug companies have spent more than a billion dollars lobbying Congress during that period.
Obviously, Big Pharma has a sweet deal they want to preserve. But members of Congress also have a major source of election funds they don’t want to lose.
The result? While 92% of Americans want Medicare to negotiate drug prices down, Congress won’t allow it.
Possibly because Medicare prescription coverage delivers a $100 billion+ windfall to the drug industry every year.
Don’t Fall for Their Lame Excuses
Defenders of the drug industry point to several reasons negotiating drug prices down is a “bad idea.”
First, they say it will discourage development of new drugs. Well, as we’ve shown in this newsletter before, nine out of the ten biggest drug companies spend more on marketing than they do on research.
Besides, if drug companies can afford to charge Britain’s NHS a third of what they charge Medicare, you have one of two situations:
- Medicare is being massively overcharged… or
- Americans are underwriting the generous discounts given to foreign healthcare systems.
Either way, it’s unacceptable. And the only way to change it is to force Congress to act.
At that point, your Congressperson may say, “Well, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said negotiating prices wouldn’t deliver much in savings.”
Why shouldn’t negotiating work for the U.S., if it’s worked for every other developed country? Because the CBO apparently looked at the ability to negotiate price as the only change.
There’s a second step that makes negotiating work.
Welcome to the Formulary
Virtually every insurance plan has one. Both private insurance and government plans. It’s called a “formulary.” And it’s not that hard to understand.
A formulary is a list of approved drugs.
So, let’s say Medicare wants prices for cholesterol meds. These are among the blockbuster earners for drug companies… and competition is stiff.
If you want your cholesterol med listed on the formulary, you have to come in with a competitive bid. And every other drug company will be trying to beat you out.
That’s a key reason Brits pay a third as much as Americans for their drugs.
Congress can’t allow Medicare to only negotiate prices. Medicare has to establish a formulary, too. Then, low-price leaders get all the business from more than 40 million people.
Big Pharma can’t overlook that kind of volume. It may not yield the savings countries with universal health care enjoy… but wouldn’t the savings even the Veteran’s Administration enjoys be worth it?
Of course, how do you fight an industry with billions in lobbying money?
You Have the Power of the Ballot Box
Your Senator and Congressperson have a great job. Lots of power, lots of privileges, and – often – a cushy lobbying job waiting for them when they “retire.”
Who wouldn’t want to take junkets to foreign countries – on the taxpayer’s dime? Or enjoy VIP access to events most of us couldn’t dream of attending? Why do you think so many legislators cling to their office for decades?
It’s a sweet deal. And only you can end it. So, when enough voters raise their voices, politicians have to respond… or risk losing their cushy jobs.
Polls show 92% of Americans favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices down. But politicians won’t respond till they see that desire leading to their ouster. That’s the only thing that can beat Big Pharma’s money.
If enough of you demand it, Congress will act. They know other industries will fill the gap if they lose Big Pharma’s money.
Why should you have to pay two or three times – or even more – the price people in other countries pay for the same drugs?
You shouldn’t. The only excuse for these prices is greed. And when it comes to your health, that’s a pretty poor excuse.
Find out how to contact your Senator and Congressperson at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. Let them know you’re sick and tired of paying three times as much for your prescriptions as your peers in other countries. And demand they take action now.
If enough of you act… so will they.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Hirschler, B., “How the U.S. Pays 3 Times More for Drugs,” Scientific American.
“How Prescription Drug Prices Compare Internationally,” The Wall Street Journal. 2018.
“The Medicare Beneficiary Population,” AARP. 2009.
Silverstein, S., “This Is Why Your Drug Prescriptions Cost So Damn Much,” Mother Jones. Oct 21, 2016.
Hamblin, J., “Pharma Bro Is the Face of U.S. Health Care,” The Atlantic. Sep 23, 2015.
Sarnak, D.O., et al, “Paying for Prescription Drugs Around the World: Why Is the U.S. an Outlier?” The Commonwealth Fund. Oct, 25, 2017.
© Copyright 2018 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.