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Regulate Pharmaceutical Drug Prices

Published on December 14th, 2017 at 04:06 am

By Cooper Rosenberg

As a result of the lack of government regulation in medical care and pharmaceutical drug prices, America has seen many corporations in recent years raising the prices on their pharmaceutical drugs, despite the fact many people need these pharmaceutical drugs. One of these companies, Mylan, the company behind the allergic-reaction fighting drug Epipen, which in 2015 alone was prescribed to over three and a half million Americans, has been increasing the retail prices on their Epipens. When Mylan bought the rights to Epipen, back in 2007, a two pack cost customers $93.88, and since then price of a two pack has increased by over 500% as a two pack now sells for around $600. The recent price increase in the Epipen is insane, even more so when considering that the Epipen only contains around a dollar of the actual drug epinephrine. This caused consumer outrage last year as the pricing was not affordable for everyone. Another example of this can be seen with the treatment for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that attacks white blood cells in bone marrow resulting in a weakening of the immune system, bones, red blood cells and kidneys of those affected by the disease. Revlimid, a drug that treats multiple myeloma, price doubled last year from 78,000 dollars a year to 156,000 dollars a year. Every year more and more of these companies jack up their prices and without government regulating the prices they will continue to rise. Pyrimethamine also known as Daraprim is a prescription drug used to treat HIV and Aids. Daraprim was put on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines yet the company Turing Pharmaceuticals still was able to raise the price of Daraprim in the United States from $13.50 to $750 because they are the only makers of the drug. In other countries the price is must cheaper, as a tablet costs around $0.10 in India. These overpriced drugs are causing many people to delay and not commit to a full plan for their treatments. This can be seen especially with cancer treatments as a study done by the Oncologist in 2013, showed that around a quarter of cancer patients in the United States have skipped treatments because it was not affordable. Another study done by the Oncologist compares the average monthly income of American families to the average monthly costs for cancer treatment in between the years 1975-2010. The study showed a dramatic increase in the price of cancer treatment as it has begun to cost more than families even make in a month. These major pharmaceutical companies claim that they are raising the prices so they have enough money to improve their drugs. Yet, that clearly is not their main goal because companies such as Mylan, who claim that this is the reason they raised the price on the Epipen, has a CEO that is able to walk away with around $100 million salary each year.

Companies even collude with one another in order to raise drug prices. In January of this year two executives at heritage pharmaceuticals pleaded guilty in a federal court case in which they were charged of price fixing diabetes medication. If pharmaceutical drugs were regulated by the United States government price-fixing would not be an issue as the government would monitor the prices and have control over them. However, this is not the case and the lack of government regulation has led to more and more cases of price fixing between major corporations. These corporations continue to take advantage of their customers who need these medications. Earlier this year, a lawsuit against the companies and subsidiaries, Heritage, Mylan, Citron, Mayne Pharmaceuticals USA, Sun- Pharmaceuticals, Sandoz, Par Pharmaceuticals, Apotex, Glenmark Generics, Lannett Company, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Zydus Pharmaceuticals, Aurobindo Pharmaceuticals, and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, was filed by 45 states. The lawsuit is charging these companies and their executives of conspiring to price-fix pharmaceutical drugs. What this means is that the companies would agree upon a price range to sell their drugs so they could raise their prices and not have to worry about competition at lower prices. These companies have raised their prices on diabetes medication, glaucoma medication, epilepsy medication, along with other drugs, which is the reason this suspicion that has landed on them. The American government is clearly of this because President Trump has spoken about it. So, what is holding him and the rest of the government back from getting involved? Do they not care enough about their own people to set up laws allowing them to protect their citizens from a corporation's thirst for monetary gain? This is urgent and even though this has been going on for years, nothing has been done about it except for a couple lawsuits which clearly have not had a big enough impact because time and time again companies price-fix leaving American people to suffer.

America unlike other countries does not permit the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs by the government. A report by CNN, compared the prices of drugs in the United States to the prices in foreign countries and the difference in price is dramatic. Here in America, Nexium costs the insurer around $215 while only $23 in the Netherlands, how is it logical for the same drug to have such a big gap in its price points? Other examples of this are Gleevec, a treatment for Leukemia, which costs over $6,000 in the US a month, while only a little over $1,000 in Canada a month, Humira which is a medication for arthritis, which affects over three million Americans a year, sells here for over $2,200 while the same medication costs under $900 in Switzerland. A study done in 2015 by Bloomberg News shows a comparison of drug prices in America and foreign countries. One example they give shows a comparison between the pharmaceutical drug Sovaldi which is a Hepatitis C pill, that costs somewhere in between $19,000 and $30,000 a month depending on whether or not the person has a discount and it only costs around $2,000 a month in Brazil. Many people have realized that this is wrong and America should follow in the footsteps of countries such as the Netherlands who allow the government to regulate drug prices. However, one of the reasons why the American government is unable to regulate drug prices falls in the lap of congress. On President Donald Trump's campaign website from the 2016 election it states that, "Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America". These special interests that Trump refers to are those of politicians who are being paid by big pharmaceutical brands or who are being backed by big pharmaceuticals companies economically in return for them to sweep these issues under the carpet. These politicians should be punished for their actions because how are we meant to trust people who care more about money more than their fellow Americans?

People should be able to afford medication; people should be able to not have to worry about whether or not an Epipen is necessary; people should be able to get treatment; people should not have to miss out on prescriptions and medication because corporations that lack morals are getting away with price-fixing. It is time to stand up against these corporations that are taking advantage of the American people. It is time to put an end to the high prices on pharmaceutical drugs making them affordable for everyone. This is why we need to follow in the footsteps of other nations whose governments get involved, so there can be regulations set on pharmaceutical drug, making price-fixing and price increases of pharmaceutical drugs that are in high demand a thing of the past.

Works Cited

Duhigg, Charles. “Outcry Over EpiPen Prices Hasn’t Made Them Lower.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/04/business/angry-about-epipen-prices-executive-dont-care-much.html.

Ferry, David. “The New War on (Overpriced) Pharmaceuticals.” Wired, Conde Nast, 8 Nov. 2017, www.wired.com/story/fighting-high-drug-prices/

Kounang, Nadia. “Pharmaceuticals Cheaper Abroad Because of Regulation.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Sept. 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/09/28/health/us-pays-more-for-drugs/index.html.

Langreth, Robert, et al. “The U.S. Pays a Lot More for Top Drugs Than Other Countries.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 18 Dec. 2015, www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drug-prices/.

Lupkin, Sydney. “Why Prescription Drugs Are So Expensive | Money.” Time, Time, 23 Aug. 2016, time.com/money/4462919/prescription-drug-prices-too-high/.

Szabo, Liz. “As Drug Costs Soar, People Delay Or Skip Cancer Treatments.” NPR, NPR, 15 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/15/520110742/as-drug-costs-soar-people-del ay-or-skip-cancer-treatments.