Drug Prices in U.S.

STAT news on health, medicine, and science

3/12/16 Received letter from Caremark 2 days ago saying they could not fill my prescription order because of a payment problem.

I called today and spoke with Jacelyn. She said that the problem was that the bill for the order was $574 and they didn't want to charge it to my card without my permission.

She said that I was being assessed a "DAW [Despense As Written] penalty" [their words] for ordering brand-name prescriptions. This included Nexium, for which there is a generic [although it is useless because it doesn't do what the brand name does], but also all the other brand name prescriptions for which no generic exists: Benicar, Nasonex, Azelistine, Novolog, Lantus.

She was kind enough to tell me about "tier exceptions" which could be applied for by my doctors. Caremark might lower the prices if they approved the exceptions. She faxed the forms to my doctors.

Here is some of the Order No. 2899704327:

       Previous Orders Current Order % Change
Metoprolol $2.65 $14,14 126.4% increase
Clopidogrel $5.30 $11.39 115% increase
Nasonex [45 day supply] $57.50 $70.00 [140.00/90 day] 2,335% increase
Nexium $30.00 $95.73 219% increase
Ranitidine $8.54 $30.00 251% increase
Synthroid $2.65 $8.42 218% increase

3/14/16 I called Caremark and spoke with Gabriel. He gave me the other prices for the outstanding order. Nexium, he said, was moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3; that was the reason for the increase. Maybe they are doing this with many of the other drugs.

4/16 I posted this information to Facebook, calling for people to join me in a class action lawsuit against whoever was responsible.

5/16 I received a letter saying my request for a tier exception was granted for Nexium... Two weeks later I received word that the exception had been reversed.

10 Taxpayer Handouts to the Super Rich That Will Make Your Blood Boil

Pharmaceutical subsidies ($270 billion/year)

As US Uncut has previously reported, the pharmaceutical industry costs taxpayers roughly $270 billion a year when accounting for the cost we pay for life-saving drugs whose patents have been bought up by Big Pharma. This is over $1,914 per household in corporate welfare. This is partly due to the Medicare Part D bill that George W. Bush signed into law in 2003, which prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

But the biggest drug companies also make a pretty penny (a combined $711 billion in profits between 2003 and 2012) by buying patents for drugs that were largely developed with taxpayer-funded research, then jacking up the price by absurd amounts after cornering the market.

Combined profits of top pharma companies. Data courtesy of healthcareforamericanow.org.

This $270 billion annual subsidy could be virtually eliminated by passing Bernie Sanders’ bill to establish a government fund that buys up drug patents as soon as they become available for purchase. Then, the government would sell drugs at-cost to save money for those who need them. The money saved could pay for the annual $270 billion in insurance costs from Obamacare that would help more Americans get access to healthcare.

Comic books. Lesson plans. How drug companies target kids

California moves closer to requiring drug makers to justify price hikes

Two former device maker execs go on trial for unauthorized marketing Two men who once ran a device maker that was later sold to Johnson & Johnson will go on trial on Tuesday for marketing a product for unapproved uses, the latest case in which the federal government is targeting high-ranking executives for illegally promoting a drug or device.

Supreme Court says Glaxo must face racketeering lawsuits over a diabetes pill The United States Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by GlaxoSmithKline to avoid a lawsuit brought by three health plans, which claimed they overpaid for the Avandia diabetes pill because the drug maker hid some of the safety risks.

Vermont poised to become first state to require pharma to justify pricing By ED SILVERMAN @Pharmalot MAY 19, 2016. In less than a month, Vermont could become the first state in the country to require drug makers to justify price hikes on their medicines, a move that may prompt others to take similar action but also spark a battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

The development comes amid mounting furor over prescription drug costs. Several states have responded by proposing legislation that requires drug companies to either reveal their costs or explain their pricing. These demands reflect industry arguments that rising prices reflect rising R&D costs.

Genentech accused again of cheating health care providers Yet another health care provider is accusing Genentech of fudging the amount of the Herceptin medicine that the company provides in each vial, causing the facility and many other hospitals to overpay for the pricey treatment.

In the latest instance, the Comanche County Memorial Hospital filed a lawsuit alleging that Genentech, which is a unit of Roche, shortchanges hospitals by placing less of the breast cancer medication in vials, or alternatively, misrepresenting the amount of the drug that must be mixed in a solution. Under either scenario, the lawsuit contends providers would unnecessarily be forced to purchase additional vials. READ MORE

Run From the Cure - The Rick Simpson Story (Full) Hemp oil cures cancer, diabetes, migraines, chronic pain, and weight problems. Ref. Dr. Sam Epstein, professor at U. of Chicago. His book is Cancer-Gate. Pathologist.

Valeant price hikes will pay for generous executive retention bonuses As Valeant Pharmaceuticals struggles to recover from blistering criticism over its pricing and accounting practices, the drug maker is now being slammed for paying hefty retention bonuses to several executives. In a regulatory filing earlier this week, the company disclosed that as much as $10.8 million will be handed out to three executives by the end of this year. In a form letter that was also filed, Valeant’s new Chief Executive, Joe Papa, noted these are “challenging times for our company.”

Colombia to Novartis: Lower the price of your cancer drug, or else The Colombian government and Novartis appear to be headed toward a showdown over the widely used Gleevec cancer treatment. In the latest twist, Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria is giving the drug maker a few more weeks to reduce its price for the medicine, or he will issue a so-called “compulsory license” that will allow generic companies to sell lower-cost versions.

Purdue Pharma: Corporate Fraud With a Body Count The LA Times investigation of Purdue Pharma’s manufacture and marketing of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin published last week should be regarded as a standard case study in corporate fraud.

Attacking Ourselves: Top Doctors Reveal Vaccines Turn Our Immune System Against Us

Big Pharma’s Dirty Little Secret: Vaccine-Induced Autoimmune Injury

Big Pharma and Organized Crime — They Are More Similar Than You May Think The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and deaths, and the side effects are the same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry …” ~ former Vice-President of Pfizer pharmaceuticals.

The industry is filled with examples of wrongful death, extortion, fraud, corruption, obstruction of justice, embezzlement, fake journals, harassment and hit lists that would make even the most hardened Mafia godfather blush. Big Pharma has been fined billions by the U.S. Department of Justice, but these enormous fines don’t curb the corruption, it’s just looked upon as “the cost of doing business,” similar to paying the utilities.

In “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime,” Gřtzsche reveals the corruption behind exorbitant prices for branded drugs, bringing attention to the fact that drugs are not expensive because of development costs, but because of the political lobbying, marketing and excess profit taking. He also points out many trials are nothing more than smoke and mirrors, where pharmaceutical companies organize research in such a way that the best populations and comparison groups are selected for the very reason that they support the preferred outcome of the company; they control data and do analyses in-house and hire professional writers to write the papers. The pharmaceutical companies then cherry pick the results to suit their marketing needs.

What Big Pharma Does Not Want You to Know About the Opioid Epidemic By Martha Rosenberg / AlterNet May 26, 2016

The Pharma-driven opioid epidemic may be as big a con as the mortgage housing bubble collapse.

The prescription opioid epidemic is not new. It began when Pharma rolled out and aggressively marketed time-released opioids like Oxycontin, driving “pill mills” that distributed as many as 9 million Oxys in a six-month span.

What is new is the media finally calling Pharma out on the many cagey ways it got people hooked on opioids and heroin (and continues to do so), how the FDA unabashedly helps Pharma with shocking new approvals, and how people in real pain, especially the poor and African Americans, are some of the hidden victims of the epidemic. When all the reports are in, the Pharma-driven opioid epidemic may be one of the biggest and deadliest cons in recent history.

Many newly graduating doctors, young medical professionals and their patients did not remember the opiate addictions of the 1930s, '40s and '50s and the many U.S. troops who got hooked on heroin in Vietnam. (Certainly no one remembered the notorious opium dens of early America.) Why should these drugs be so highly restricted, said Pharma, banking on the U.S.’ short memory. Why should they be restricted to short-term surgical pain, accidents and treatment of cancer and terminal pain conditions?

The misinformation was abetted by a perverse pro-opioid movement of users who claim the real problem is the media’s “misunderstanding” of opioids and overly tight controls on the pills.

Vocal defenders are not a coincidence. They are the result of Pharma’s deliberate, multimillion-dollar campaigns to cast chronic pain and other nonmalignant pain conditions as requiring opioids and Pharma’s thriving parallel addiction business. Twenty years ago, none of the pain conditions now presented as requiring opioids would have been presented that way. Nor were between 40 and 52 people a day dying from opioids.

The picture is worsened by the fact that there are no studies showing that prescribing long-term opioids for chronic pain is effective but there is evidence it makes pain worse.

While over-the-counter pain meds certainly can cause stomach bleeding, opioids cause hormonal changes, constipation, a decrease in immune responses, fracture risks, liver and kidney risks, cardiopulmonary, pulmonary and congestive heart problems, sleep apnea, mental problems and even death in those who combine them with other drugs.

In a recent expose by the Los Angeles Times that looked at thousands of Purdue emails, memos, meeting minutes, sales reports, FDA records, patent records and journal articles over many years, Oxycontin’s notorious addiction numbers stem from this same phenomenon. Purdue Pharma deliberately marketed Oxycontin as a 12-hour med—providing pain relief for 12 hours, the company said, and only requiring a twice-a-day dose. Records now show that Purdue knew the claim was a lie, as did its sales reps, patients, medical professional and even regulatory authorities. At best, Oxy only provided eight hours of pain relief exposing patients to returning pain, withdrawal symptoms and dangerously inadequate care.

Send comments to co@dadbyrn.com, Professor C. Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Pr. Emeritus