Sunday, November 25, 2018

Bill Crawford: Monopolies Hike Drug Prices

"The high cost of prescriptions are leading many people to ration medicine or skip it altogether," reads a story in the Clarion-Ledger.

An earlier story told about an 87-year-old WWII veteran with Type 2 diabetes. His glucose test strips suddenly jumped up from $25 to $90 a box. "That's too high," he said. "And I don't understand how they can do that."

Skyrocketing drug prices don't just hurt Mississippians, it's a national problem. President Donald Trump promised to bring down drug prices, but, beyond talking tough, has accomplished little. Congress has done nothing.

You reckon the billions of dollars the drug industry spends on lobbying and political contributions has anything to do with that?

According to, lobbying costs over the past 10 years topped $2.4 billion and contributions to candidates topped $538 million.

Over the past five years, drug companies also spent another $28 billion on consumer advertising, according to

Where does all that money come from?

Hmmm. Overpriced drugs? looked into drug pricing last week. Here are some findings: Spending on prescription drugs, by both hospitals and consumers, was between $450 and $475 billion in 2016. In the third quarter of this year, drug companies accounted for just 23% of the health care industry’s revenue but controlled 63% of its profits.

That and the following examples cited by Axios and suggest the drug industry is all about profit and little about actual health care – Martin Shkreli bought Daraprim, a drug to treat AIDS, and raised the price by 5,000%; Mylan raised the price of the Epi-Pen by about 500% over 6 years; Kaleo raised the price of its life-saving opioid overdose antidote Evzio by more than 600% at the height of the drug crisis; and insulin prices keep creeping higher, up to 200% more for some products.

Axios' look into insulin pricing reveals why that 87-year-old Veteran saw his insulin strips jump up so much. Drug companies like to blame increasing costs on insurance middlemen, arguing they take bigger cuts of the insulin market (all true). But drug companies have also raised their prices and used the patent system to keep them high. "Insulin is a complex drug to manufacture, and existing manufacturers have created patent thickets to shield their products from competition."

Indeed, the drug companies have done a remarkable job limiting competition. They got Congress and the courts to make changes to patent law that encourage monopolization, higher prices, and less innovation, according to the Open Markets Institute. "These changes have made it easier for drug companies … to suppress competition." They also got Congress to restrict importation of cheaper foreign made drugs.

A Baron's article called this a "dangerous monopoly of power."

The Open Markets Institute says the U.S. has "largely abandoned the policies it previously used to foster healthy competition," causing "a highly dysfunctional pharmaceutical market that produces high prices and less and less innovation."

Axios said divided government probably won’t produce a grand bargain on drug pricing. "The industry is still very powerful, and Congress' ideological differences are still real."

A 2016 study published by the National Academy for State Health Policy says, "Prescription drugs are an essential good; they are as necessary to quality of life — and life itself — as water and sanitation,” and suggested drug companies might be regulated like utilities.

Perhaps it's time for that.

Crawford is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

so long as lobbyists remain as the 4th branch of government, meaning in addition to executive, judicial, and legislative, nothing will change. none of the three branches of government , ordained in the u s constitution, can exercise any checks or balances against the 4th branch......which are the stinking lobbyists hired by the drug companies.

Anonymous said...

USA is drug addicted!! Opioids, weed, booze, scripts, pick your poison...

BIG PHARMA is a drug dealer... they get everyone hooked and raise the price!!

Trump, please help !!

Anonymous said...

So, between the VA and Medicare this vet can't get these covered? Something doesn't sound right about this.

Anonymous said...

11:12 - If you will change 'can' to 'will' in your second sentence, your post will be accurate.

Poppa Pill said...

They're usually well dressed, really cute young females that look sorta like a stewardess rolling her overnight suitcase into the doctor's waiting room. You can hear them at the window telling the receptionist they're there and won't take but a minute. And typically they butt in line ahead of those of us who have appointments. They wheel their little suitcases back into the behind the closed door.

These are always young men and women, always neatly coiffed and supremely dressed, straight out of catalogs. They're drug reps and it's not unheard of for a pharmacist to become a drug rep - they're paid that damned well. I know more than a few and they all have really nice houses, multiple vehicles and expensive hobbies.

These are the same people who bring or send catered breakfast, break foods and lunch box sandwiches to the doctors' offices on a daily basis. Sometimes you'll see the catering trucks at the back doors of clinics, emblazoned with the names of the local, fancy food outlets.

Do drug companies actually have to depend on bribery, samples and visits from short skirts to provide us with the proper medications? Who the hell do we think ultimately pays the price tag for all this?

Anonymous said...

Sit in a medical office lobby and watch the big pharma sales babes walk in and strut their stuff, asking to see Dr. xxx.

Have you ever wondered why physicians have their favorite drugs to prescribe? Because they get their palms greased by these sleezy sales babes, and maybe more.

Anonymous said...

Simple economics of supply and demand at play: the number of Type 2 diabetics in the US have doubled, including in children. This equals a higher demand for insulin and diabetic supplies. Until we acknowledge the food pyramid as being a disaster and the cause for this and get rid of added sugars and processed foods from our diets, the demand for diabetic medicines will continue to increase.

Anonymous said...

Thank you President Trump for what you have done to lower prescription drug prices and what you continue to do for us.

Anonymous said...

Fake news! The GOP controls Congress and the White House.

So, this can’t possibly be happening.

Anonymous said...

3:10 This is an excellent troll. Full marks, friend!

Whatta Crock! said...

1:59 obviously thinks I am stupid enough to believe the manufacturers of diabetic supplies cannot keep up with the number of people needing those supplies. And he wants me to believe that because the drug makers can't keep up, they double the prices, therefore our diets are the cause of high drug prices. What a farkin' crock!

Anonymous said...

The only thing positive that I can say about Crawford is that his writing is more in-depth than Salter’s. Of course, that is not much of a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Should Drug-Reps be required to register as lobbyists? Their function, results and method of operation seem to be virtually identical. The only differences are the products and the arena.

Anonymous said...

1;18pm provides a perfect analysis of drug reps.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Crawford doesn't mention that drug cost vary wildly from State to State.

The costs are dependent on how consumer oriented an Insurance Commissioner is and in Mississippi, we've never had one of those.

Also, the notion that " lifestyle" is to blame for someone getting sick is a deliberate ploy to keep you from identifying with the ill. It is also to keep you from noticing that contamination of our environment and food change and de-regulation of drugs is a far greater cause.

A hint is that cancer is now the leading cause of death in children ( CDC) and that despite the reduction in smoking, lung cancer and heart disease is occurring in those who never smoked or never exposed to second hand smoke and did not decrease proportionately.

That Congress has allowed drugs and devices not only to be sold here that would never have been allowed 30 years ago and worse, allows drugs and devices not approved here to be sold in other countries should also alarm you.

Anonymous said...

You all are kissing on one key element besides the usual political crap. Ask your pharmacist how pharmacy benefit managers are treating pharmacists and patients unfairly.

Anonymous said...

La Costra Pharma

Anonymous said...

I was 52 years old, weighed <180#, jogged 5 miles/day, didn't smoke when my problems began. Then, and after 3 years of tests and misdiagnoses costing me $13,000 above what insurance paid I diagnosed myself as type 2 diabetic when the peripheral neuropathy and systemic mychosis became so severe that a I was unable to work. With the help of webmd and a $20 glucose meter I found what NMMC and several local doctors apparently didn't want to find as long as they could continue to rob me slowly to death.

The dates and dollars above are rounded off but I have kept the records from the last 2 years of my ordeal due to the threat of being sued by the fine staff and management of the local hospital and its associated clinics for the fees billed to me when my insurer declined paying for tests that were uncalled for.

The single most important information in seeking medical care is the depth of the pockets of you and your insurer.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:08 is obviously a Democrat. He thinks Mike Chaney can just TELL Drug mfgs how much they can charge for their merchandise and they will magically fall in line. I never occurs to him that they might just say “never mind”. And THAT would really help, wouldn’t it??? Not only would the price not decrease but we’d have to travel out of state to buy them. Brilliant idea!!

Anonymous said...

8:10 - What is a 'pharmacy benefits manager', what is his role and how does he affect me as a pharmacy customer? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

@10:18 AM, I had just the opposite experience. During a routine annual physical, my previous quack primary care physician told me that I was a Type II diabetic and tried to put me on metformin.

I said no, but it was motivation for me to lose 30 pounds in 2-months by reducing my carbs/calories, and bike riding. I am not one to blindly follow directions from physicians - trust but verify.

Fast forward about five years and said quack called me at home and told me that I needed to go on statins because of some study that he read.


I then made my first appointment with a respected endocrinologist. He ran blood tests that most PC physicians have never heard of in their life.

A week later I got the results. Not only was I not a diabetic, but he went further to say that I have never been a diabetic.

He said that the quack should go back to medical school.

/s/ Still not a diabetic nine years later.

Anonymous said...

I see no issue with pharmaceutical companies and insurers and everyone else down the chain maximizing the profit on their products and services. That's what makes American great, profits!!!! These companies are allowed to wine and dine politicians just like every other business trying to make money. It would be irresponsible to their shareholders not to try and get beneficial treatment from lawmakers.

If you can't afford a 6 or 7 figure treatment, then you can try to raise the money from friends or charities. No different than anything else you want in life, sometimes you have to make sacrifices and go without. I don't remember the 10 commandments saying anything about free healthcare.

Anonymous said...

"A week later I got the results. Not only was I not a diabetic, but he went further to say that I have never been a diabetic."

Explain how that works. A glycosylated hemoglobin only estimates the glucose level for about the past three months. You stated you had your sugar under control for about five years before you saw the endocrinologist for the first time.

If he can measure a glucose level that is five years old he should patent it and sell it to diabetics. As far as I know, it can't be done.

Not Type II said...

Sorry, but I don't remember the tests. My blood sugar was never out of control, so there wasn't anything to control. The original diagnosis was based solely on a 12 hour fasting blood sugar of 101, AND, and a glucose tolerance test.

Anything over a 100 and this quack panics.

My respected endocrinologist told me that the glucose tolerance tests should only be used to diagnose gestational diabetes (I am a guy), but the quack used it anyway.

I was misdiagnosed from day 1. I was never a Type II diabetic.

From the day of diagnosis my A1C tests were excellent, because I wasn't a diabetic.

The quack made a statement on day 1 - "there are 15,000,000 undiagnosed diabetics in the U.S."

This is known as confirmation bias.

On a positive note, I lost weight, which is still off (30#), and I took up biking which I still enjoy.

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