Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 12, 2013

Competitive market for drugs?


The Register-News

---- — I can say a few really positive things about writing a column for the past couple of years.

I never dreamed that I would receive so many suggestions and articles that folks want to hear about. I have learned so much from the articles sent and suggestions from folks to investigate and research. I hope that in some small way I have helped bring light in a practical way on these subjects that affect so many of us. I appreciate receiving your suggestions and numerous articles that bring light to all of us.

I received an article this week from a colleague written by Elizabeth Rosenthal that explains how severely the cost increases in common needed drugs for Asthma have affected those people suffering from this illness.

I find it hard to believe that our political leaders tolerate this type of actions under the guise of free market systems.

Let’s just explore some of the issues raised in this lady’s article and tell me what you think. It starts with a Mom trying to take care of two daughters suffering from severe Asthma problems. The title of the Article is: “The Soaring Cost of a single Breath.”

“The kitchen counter in the home of the Hayes family is scattered with the inhalers, sprays and bottles of pills that have allowed Hannah, 13, and her sister, Abby, 10, to excel at dance and gymnastics despite a horrific pollen season that has set off asthmaattacks, leaving the girls struggling to breathe.”

“The arsenal of medicines in the Hayeses’ kitchen helps explain why. Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was re-patented.

“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter. “

We spend far more per capita on medicines than other developed countries even though it is reported that we take fewer prescription medicines than people in other countries. Drugs account for 10 percent of the country’s $2.7 trillion annual health bill, said Gerard Anderson, who studies medical pricing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

In other countries the price of drugs are controlled. We kid ourselves that we have a competitive free market. How can you have competition when only one company makes the drug? We are not talking about the new “break the bank cancer drugs;” we are talking about common drugs that have been around for decades.

The article reports that they even pay generic drug manufactures to not produce a cheaper version in a plan labeled “Pay for Delay.” How do they manage to do this?

It is reported that $250 million last year was spent on lobbying for pharmaceutical and health products — more than even the defense industry — the government allows such practices because our politicians vote the way their campaign contributors pay them to. Lawmakers in Washington have forbidden Medicare, the largest government purchaser of health care, to negotiate drug prices. Unlike its counterparts in other countries, the United States Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which evaluates treatments for coverage by federal programs, is not allowed to consider cost comparisons or cost-effectiveness in its recommendations. And importation of prescription medicines from abroad is illegal, even personal purchases from mail-order pharmacies. They charge what they want to pay their bonuses and perks for their top executives.

We sit here daily and listen to the gobbly-gook we are fed by the politicians about why they need more of our tax dollars to support not allowing the negotiation of prices for Medicare D. Every day we are told how fortunate we are to be able to pay almost double what folks in other developed countries pay for health care. Every day they try to convince us that we are not smart enough to understand why common procedures are so different in cost depending what state or side of a city you live on.

Transparency is coming like a huge snowball rolling down hill and we will wake up. Vote them out and keep voting them out until they represent you and not the special interest like the drug companies and others. Get

engaged and ask your representatives how they vote. Start with asking them how they voted on not allowing the negotiation of drug prices for Medicare D for seniors or where they stand on public financing of elections. Vote them out Democrat or Republican if they voted to not allow drug price negotiation for seniors. You can force transparency by asking questions via e-mail, letters and phone calls. I would really appreciate hearing the response you get from the ones who voted to allow drug prices for seniors to cost more than anywhere else. It would really be informative to publish the reasons our Senators and Congress men and women voted to do this. Let me know and we will add some transparency before it is time to vote.

Let’s close with a quote: “Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks”

— Doug Larson, English middle-distance runner who won gold medals at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.