HCFA Executive Director in Globe Letters today: Take Action on Drug Prices
Today's Boston Globe's lead letter-to-the-editor is from Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, HCFA's Executive Director. The letter is call for action on high prescription drug prices, exemplified this week by the outrageous price increases Mylan is charging for their EpiPen injectible drug for allergic shock:
Re the Aug. 25 editorial “EpiPen maker sticks it to patients — again”: We agree. The price hikes of the EpiPen allergy-drug injector are “shameless” and “deceptive,” and another example of drugmakers pricing their products at whatever the market will bear.
Prescription drug prices are the fastest-growing cost in health care, placing life-saving therapies beyond the reach of consumers. Drugmaker Mylan’s initial response to the public’s EpiPen price hike outrage was to enhance its patient-assistance program, a marketing ploy that discounts the cost of EpiPens for individuals but does nothing to address the underlying cost gouging, or the resulting impact on insurance premiums.
We urge lawmakers and regulators to step in and shine a light on the true development and production costs of pharmaceuticals. This is a wake-up call. Let’s work together to place the EpiPen and other life-saving therapies back within the reach of the people who need them. Let’s stop underwriting exorbitant profits, drug marketing budgets, and lobbyists’ salaries.
Innovative new drugs and therapies will be worthless if no one can afford to buy and use them.
AMY WHITCOMB SLEMMER
Health Care For All
The public is demanding action on prescription drug prices. The Kaiser Health Tracking poll found overwhelming, bipartisan support for a variety of policy ideas to get tough on drug prices:
- 86 percent support requiring drug companies to release information on how they set prices, including majorities of Democrats (90%), Republicans (82%), and independents (84%)
- 83 percent support allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies to lower prices for people with Medicare, including majorities of Democrats (93%), Republicans (74%), and independents (83%)
- 76 percent support limiting how much drug companies can charge for high-cost drugs for illnesses such as hepatitis or cancer, including majorities of Democrats (79%), Republicans (70%), and independents (77%)
HCFA has promoted a broad agenda to lower prescription drug prices, include price transparency legislation, restrictions on gifts and meals provided by drug marketing reps to doctors, support for "academic detailing," which provides objective, unbiased information to doctors to counter sales pitches from drug sellers, and reinstating the state ban on drug copay discount coupons, which, as mentioned in our letter, are ploys used to promote high-price drugs that end up costing consumers more in higher premiums.
We are planning to mount a major campaign for next year's legislative session to take strong action on prescription drugs. This year, Vermont passed major drug price transparency legislation, and bills are pending in other states as well. The tide on this issue is turning, growing larger and more urgent. Let us know if you would like to participate.
-- Brian Rosman