Minnesotans understand the anger erupting over the drug Daraprim and a 4,000 percent price increase.
The controversy has exploded in mainstream and social media. According to the Washington Post, “Ever since an HIV/AIDS patient advocacy group began raising questions last week about why Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price for a medication from $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight, anger against the company has been boiling over… The medicine, Daraprim, which has been on the market for 62 years, is the standard of care for a food-borne illness called toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite that can severely affect those with compromised immune systems. Turing purchased the rights to the drug last month and almost immediately raised prices.”
The dispute has played out in several forums including, of course, Twitter. The Post reports, “John Carroll, the editor of Fierce Biotech, a daily newsletter about the industry, was one of the first to ask Turing chief executive Martin Shkreli directly to explain the move. In a hot-headed Twitter exchange (@JohnCFierce) over the weekend, Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) declined to provide additional information and instead launched into a series of personal attacks against Carroll — calling him ‘irrelevant’ and someone who doesn’t ‘think logically.’ ”
Research conducted by Minnesota HealthBasics found that 69 percent of Minnesotans say that “drug companies make too much money” is a major reason for the increase in health costs, one of the most significant cost-drivers cited by Minnesotans in the 2014 survey. And, say three-quarters of Minnesotans, government-imposed price controls on prescription drugs would be an effective way to reduce the cost of medical care.
Why are drug prices rising so much and what does it mean for good health policy? Here are a few perspectives:
A recent opinion article in the Star Tribune by North Memorial Health Care CEO Kevin Croston, M.D., and Medica senior vice president Rob Longendyke raise some of the troubling questions about the high cost of prescription drugs. You can read their commentary here.
A New York Times opinion article earlier this year by Peter B. Bach, a physician and director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, argues that there are only two solutions to controlling the cost of prescription drugs: “We can free insurers and government programs from the requirement to include all expensive drugs in their plans we explain to the public that some drugs are not effective enough to justify their price…Or we can piggyback on the gumption of bolder countries, and demand that policy makers set drug prices in the United States equal to those of Western Europe. Either approach would be vastly superior to the situation we have today. Bach’s article can be read here.
And, finally, the pharmaceutical industry trade group, PhRMA, makes the case that prescription drugs account for just 10 percent of U.S. health care spending. One reason, says PhRMA, is the impact of generic medicines. “Newly introduced generics are adopted rapidly and can capture an average of three quarters of the market within 3 months, with some capturing as much as 90 percent.” PhRMA’s position is here.
What do you think?