Candid talk on drug pricing.

When you read stories about the high cost of prescription drugs, including insulin, the initial reaction is to wonder how companies can be so heartless when it comes to patients living with chronic conditions who need those drugs.

Though we wonder why, our questions are generally rhetorical in nature. Because we know why. The dichotomy comes down to this: patients want, and often need, to pay as little as possible for drugs that will keep them alive. Companies, on the other hand, will do just about anything to make the next quarterly earnings report look good. When you’re looking at it from either perspective, you can understand each reaction, right?

I can understand it, but I don’t have to agree with it. I say, let’s change the perspective.

I might feel differently if drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers hadn’t already made massive profits at our expense. They were making a profit on my insulin twenty years ago, and they’re making a profit on it today. Same insulin. Billions in revenue.

Twenty years ago, I could afford to get the insulin I needed without much of a hassle. Today, if I lose my job, I might not be able to afford it at all. I’m through with asking, “How did we get here?”.

I say, let’s help companies, especially Pharmacy Benefit Managers, to operate with empathy for the people who have helped pump up those quarterly numbers for a couple of decades. Not because we’ve been such great customers over the years, but because I still believe that people matter more than an executive’s bonus.

I say, let’s put a restriction on how long a company can manipulate drug patent protection for their own benefit. And let’s make it a short restriction. Insulin would still be a profitable enterprise without patent protection, so I don’t see the need for this anymore.

I say, let’s eliminate the idea of drug formulary lists for PBMs. If it’s a drug, approved by the FDA, it should be covered. Period. At the same price as all the other drugs. If we can’t do that, let’s at least ensure that discounts and rebates negotiated by PBMs are passed along to patients enrolled in the plan. Period. Every penny. No exceptions.

You can give me a hundred reasons why none of these ideas would work, and I can’t argue with you on that. But I keep coming back to empathy, and the notion that the way things have always been is not the way things always have to be.

To some, the idea of changing the design of prescription drug coverage and payment seems insane. But in the developed world, that’s only true in the USA. Nearly every other industrialized nation on the planet does a better job of helping patients gain affordable access to drugs.

What’s the holdup, America? It’s time to change the perspective.

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Comments

  • Rick Phillips  On September 18, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Stephen the reason in my judgements is that we are slaves to this notion of socialism as being bad. We operate socialism in our country in many ways. For instance socialism prevents us form having to build our own roads every time we go somewhere. The thing is medication is a public good. Public goods have to be rationed and regulated or they will be abused. We fail to understand the difference between a public good and total socialism. I suspect this country never will. At least not in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Sandy Brooks  On September 21, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    All great ideas!!! Now if we could only implement those ideas!!!!

    Like

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