Welcome To The Week In Review.
- Members Of Congress Call Out Big Pharma For Covid Vaccine Price Gouging
- Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and current Rep. and Senator-elect Peter Welch sent a letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla condemning his plans to increase the price of its COVID vaccine by nearly four times. The U.S. government currently pays $30 per dose of the vaccine – this astronomical price increase will bring that number to up to $130 per dose. Sen. Warren and Rep. Welch pressed Bourla to respond by Jan. 9 to nine questions the members posed about the price hikes and the impact on Pfizer’s bottom line and patients alike. “Pfizer has made past assurances that market pricing for a COVID-19 vaccine would be ‘unethical’ and would amount to ‘taking advantage of a situation,'” Sen. Warren and Rep. Welch wrote. “But that is exactly what the company is doing, and the impact of this price increase will fall hardest on the uninsured and underinsured.” Taxpayer dollars funded research leading to the development of mRNA COVID vaccines, and now taxpayers will be forced to pay again through out-of-pocket costs and higher premiums. Meanwhile, Pfizer could walk away with an additional $2.5 – $3 billion in revenue if the company follows through with these vaccine price hikes. Thank you Senator Warren and Senator-elect Welch for calling out this pandemic profiteering and standing with Americans. — (Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, The Hill)
2. Case Study: Death Sentence For Hepatitis C Patients In Prisons
- STAT’s Nicholas Florko released an 8-part investigation that looks closely at state prisons’ failure to test or treat incarcerated people for hepatitis C (HCV). Florko explains that while once-daily HCV pills are highly effective (95 percent of those who take the treatment are in fact cured), the treatments are very expensive and thus out of reach for many. Given that the drugs are so unaffordable, prisons are left to choose between paying tens of thousands of dollars to cover the HCV treatment for incarcerated people in their care or deny patients access and instead only cover their ongoing medical needs due to the condition. The result of this inhumane choice? “1,013 people died of hepatitis C-related complications in states’ custody in the six years after the first cure, a Gilead antiviral drug called Sovaldi, hit the market in late 2013.” Dubbed the “1,000 dollar pill,” Gilead has raked in billions from the hepatitis C treatments which originated in an Emory University lab with taxpayer funds. The corporation shamelessly continues to defend its prices as “fair and responsible.” This investigation – which included 100 interviews, 225 public record requests, and thousands of pages of legal filings – spotlights the inhumanity of our drug pricing system and how it disproportionately impacts society’s most vulnerable. Hundreds of lives lost because patients in prison didn’t have access to lifesaving medication? Unacceptable. — (STAT)
3. Spotlight On AbbVie
- AbbVie made headlines this week – one for its repeated abuse of the patent system to keep Humira prices high and another for a controversial move to leave major industry trade groups in D.C. As a reminder, the price of AbbVie’s blockbuster drug Humira has swelled over the years as the company has extended the drug’s monopoly status in the U.S. by building a thicket of patents to prevent cheaper biosimilars from coming to market — a truly unethical scheme. After two decades of Humira monopoly, biosimilars for Humira are slated to come to market next year, an outcome that should increase competition and drive down price. But in 2016, ahead of the upcoming competition, AbbVie whipped up a new formulation of Humira (a slight tweak from the original), and in 2018, completed a product hop, moving patients from the original formulation to a new one. At that point, many of the biosimilars for the original formulation had already been approved by the FDA. When those biosimilars come to market next year, they will not apply to the new formulation of Humira, allowing AbbVie to maintain a portion of the market share. AbbVie’s shenanigans are a prime example of why we so desperately need to reform our patent system and speed generics and biosimilars to market. AbbVie opposes federal legislative changes that impede on its ability to dominate the market and price its drugs as high as it wants. Perhaps that plays a part in the company’s recent decision to leave several industry trade groups, like PhRMA and Bio, which are responsible for lobbying for the interests of brand-name drug companies. We can’t help but notice that the decision follows PhRMA and BIO’s failure to stop the passage of the historic drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act that, for the first time, allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and curb drug company price gouging. We see you, AbbVie. 👀 — (Quartz, Politico)
One more thing: A reminder that the next two drug price provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act will go into effect next month. Starting January 1, Medicare beneficiaries will get their vaccines for free and patients on Medicare Part D will have their insulin copays capped at $35 monthly. We couldn’t be more excited for all the Inflation Reduction Act drug price reforms to be implemented. Patients like Brenda and Meg need relief from high drug prices.
Have a great weekend, everyone!