Draining Bloated Drug Prices

Little Rock  Something big is happening among drug companies. They aren’t exactly on the run, but they are at least feeling the heat, so there may be hope for the rest of us.

Let’s look at how the evidence is starting to add up:

  • Turing Pharmaceuticals and its CEO have become the face of exploitation as he testifies before Congress on video screen from jail on stock manipulation charges after having become the picture of greed by upping the price of rare, minimally manufactured drugs for specific diseases by predatory multiples.
  • Valeant, a high flying drug company that assembled its meteoric rise by buying other companies and drugs in recent years has suffered an almost 50% meltdown of its value recently, pushed out its CEO and finance people for suspected earnings misstatements, and shattered the reputation of William Ackerman, a previously highflying private equity mogul who has also lost a fortune and has joined their board to try to stop the bleeding.
  • Anthem, the insurance company, is suing Express Scripts, the prescription drug middleman for $15 billion in damages in a huge pot-calling-the-kettle-black suit alleging that they violated their contract by piling on excessive charges through “unduly high pricing” and “an obscene profit windfall.” This is rich because usually when consumers buy drugs there is already a margin for the benefit manager larded into the price, so we’re really the ones paying. Anthem is charging that there is about $13 billion in such overcharges wrapped into the life of their contract. It’s little mystery that even though Anthem is crying like a stuck pig, the real victim here is the final customer: us!
  • Meanwhile giant drug purveyor, Lilly, is barking up one tree after another complaining about proposals from President Obama under the Affordable Care Act and others from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that would try to assign the research and development costs from the drug companies to specific drugs in order to rein in pricing. The company’s argument is that, hey, we spent almost $5 billion on R&D about 10% of all R&D spent in the pharmaceutical industry, and it wants us all to shut-up and accept their word rather than coming up with an assessment of drug-by-drug figures on their expenditures. Right, like they don’t do this in-house and already know, huh? They are the cause though that leads to this effect. If they didn’t arbitrarily inflate the costs of drugs against the desperate needs of the sick in their market, this wouldn’t be an issue. What goes around, comes around.

Ok, these are small signs often nestled in the business pages of local and national newspapers, but it’s spring, a season of renewed hope, so let’s take a deep breath and hope that these are real signs that finally a level of rationality may finally be imposed on the predatory pricing schemes of drugs that literally mean the difference between affording life or choosing death.

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