Drug prices soar — live with it


By Dick Miller

WE.CONNECT.DOTS: – Mylan’s 600 per cent increase in the market price of an EpiPen drug is another result of big businesses’ unholy alliance with government.

Monopoly drugs are the new cash cows.  Ruthless business execs and shareholders have home field advantage.  We outnumber them a thousand to one, but we’re sloppy in the voting booth and indifferent to the results.

Big Pharma has powerful allies.  Lawmakers and other government officials have been greased with large campaign checks and obscene fees for speeches.  Middle men and insurers are cut in for their share of the margin.  Media is juiced by tons of advertising Big Pharma uses to pummel the unwitting.

Used to be “trust in the doctor.”  Now, it is “tell your doctor you want to try _________.”  The latest wonder drug may cost hundreds of dollars a pop, but the insurance company will pay most of the cost now, absorbed by my fellow policy holders later.

Campaigning for our vote, these “bought” politicians lament our plight, knowing such sympathy will get them ink and air time.

Intrusions on Big Pharma are regarded as violations of a sacred free market.

Meanwhile our democracy morphs into an oligarchy, making it easy to predict the winners of these battles.

  1. Sick people who can’t afford the expensive drug vs. Big Pharma.
  2. Families of people killed in vehicle accidents due to product defects vs. Big Manufacturers.
  3. People depending on retirement savings vs. a government setting low interest rates to lower the cost of the Federal deficit.
  4. Consumers vs. unregulated cable and internet companies who have wormed their way into favored status with the government by serving as tax collectors.
  5. Insurance policy holders vs. insurance companies and employers that just past uncontrolled higher cost on, in the form of co-pays, deductibles, declarations and premiums.
  6. Underpaid workers vs. mega businesses who pay lawmakers to cap the minimum wage. For their employees to survive, they guide them to government subsidies we pay for.
  7. Households vs. utility companies that raise rates with little justification as often as the weather changes.

Elsewhere, as close as Canada, the little people win these battles.

In the U.S., drugs may cost a half trillion dollars this year, if not, certainly in 2017.  The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not regulate drug prices.

During negotiations before the final vote on Obamacare some Canadians were nervously chatting in a Chicago piano bar.  They feared President Obama and lawmakers would unsaddle Medicare’s prohibition to negotiate drug prices.  Such action would surely raise prescription costs in the rest of the world.

They were guaranteed U.S. lawmakers were more reliable.  Once bought, they stayed bought.  The issue never surfaced and most surely will be a nail in Obamacare’s coffin.

Richard Nixon was the last president to impose price controls.  In the early 1970s he threatened and toyed with a number of commodities, but was best known for freezing gasoline prices.

Our lawmakers do not want to discuss price controls unless such actions are needed to save farmers.  Government has stabilized crop prices, even paying for farmers to not grow, since 1950.  This is Republicans protecting their own.

Bottom Line: Big Pharma is ready for any political battle.  In California, a referendum state, a ballot question in November would limit the government health care programs to fees for prescriptions that match the Veterans Administration.  The drug companies are pouring in over $100 million to defeat the issue.

(PA is not a referendum state.  With gerrymandering and pay-for-play, why should Republicans leave any issue to the voters.)

Both major presidential candidates disappoint.

Hillary Clinton has a detailed plan for lowering drug prices but she and Big Pharma know an approving Congress will not be seated next session.  Then there is that ethical challenge, so typical of the Democrat candidate:

In 2014, she gave six speeches before health care groups, one for $265k, four for $225,500 each and one for $100k.

Donald Trump also has a plan which most economists believe will save far less money than he promises.  As usual, he is short on details and long on his estimates of how much the plan will save consumers.

Those who need these drugs should bend over.

Updated: August 28, 2016 — 10:21 pm
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