Too soon: Cherry blossom peak bloom 🌸. Not soon enough: Eli Lilly’s insulin price reduction 👀.
Welcome To The Week In Review.
- The Inflation Reduction Act Keeps Bringing Relief
- Eli Lilly made headlines this week with its announcement that it will (finally) lower some of the company’s insulin prices by 70 percent and cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for most patients. “Eli Lilly’s new insulin prices and caps will deliver long-awaited relief to many people living with diabetes in this country,” said P4AD’s Merith Basey. The move will deliver relief to some patients like Clayton who said this news “alleviates some of the worry” about his daughter’s ability to afford her insulin; but he shares the same sentiment as David, who lives with type 1 diabetes, and asked, “What the heck took you so long?” Patients have suffered needlessly for decades as Eli Lilly hiked insulin prices — Alec, whose mom Nicole has become a steadfast advocate for lower insulin prices, tragically passed away when he was forced to ration his Humalog due to cost. Humalog is Lilly’s most commonly prescribed insulin and even with the reduced list price it will still be more than three times what it was when approved in 1996. Meanwhile, it’s unlikely the changes will hurt Eli Lilly’s bottom line. “Let us be abundantly clear, these lower prices are not thanks to Eli Lilly’s generosity – this win is thanks to the relentless pressure and years of activism by patient advocates,” Merith continued. Now legislators and drug price advocates are calling on Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, the other two big insulin corporations, to follow suit and reduce their insulin prices. “We must be clear that this announcement is not due to the benevolence of Eli Lilly, but rather the result of painstaking and difficult work done by those who’ve spent so much of their time and energy over the years pushing for change and reform,” patient advocate Clayton wisely remarked. “We must also be clear that this is not the end.” — (Eli Lilly, P4AD, KTLA, CBS News, The New York Times, NPR, Office of Senator Bernie Sanders)
2. Both Chambers Are Looking Into PBMs
- This week, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee opened an investigation into the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in our drug price system. Republican Chairman James Comer called for more transparency into the middlemen’s practices, remarking that “Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ anticompetitive tactics are driving up health care costs for Americans and harming patient care.” We completely agree. The three major PBMs control 80 percent of the PBM market, and there is increasing integration between PBMs and insurers – this gives drug companies an outsized impact on the cost of medications to patients. “We have consistently supported investigations into the practices of secret PBMs to ensure they are serving patients first and foremost to produce lower prices and better health,” tweeted P4AD’s David Mitchell. We are pleased that there is strong momentum on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to uncover and reform the secretive practices of these powerful middlemen. It’s time to investigate whether PBMs are putting patients first. — (The Hill)
3. Thank You, Taxpayers
- A new study published this week in The BMJ found that during the 35 years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government invested at least $337 million into research that led to the development of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The government — the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) — also contributed over $31 billion to support clinical trials, manufacturing, and vaccine supply for people in the U.S. and for global donation during the first two years of the pandemic. Drug corporations like Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech then used all this taxpayer funded research and investment (significantly de-risked by the government) to develop the vaccine. On the backs of hard working taxpayers, drug companies raked in billions of dollars in profit and are now increasing the price of the vaccines to continue to pad their bottom line. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders wants answers – he called on Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to testify before the committee on March 22 in a hearing called “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?” Americans know the true story of the vaccines – and we won’t allow Big Pharma to pad their pockets on the backs of taxpayer dollars. Everyone deserves access to vaccines. — (The BMJ)
4. More Patent Abuse By Big Pharma
- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee aren’t the only ones calling out drug companies’ suspect use of the patent system – Big Pharma shareholders demanded drug companies disclose information on work to prevent generic competition by filing additional patents. Eight of the nine companies – AbbVie, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Gilead, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Regeneron – are fighting the new proposals, predictably defending the companies’ bottom lines at all costs, with no regard for patients. Meanwhile, Jazz Pharmaceuticals exploited our patent system to prevent generic competition from coming to market and keep the price of its narcolepsy drug high. While patients currently face a more than $200,000 annual list price and Medicare spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on the drug, Jazz Pharmaceuticals piled up patents to generate more than $13 billion in revenue since the company acquired the drug in 2005. The company’s patent abuse “deprived narcolepsy patients of access to a new drug that was much easier to take” and is “an egregious example of how drug companies exploit the patent system to shield their products from competition for as long as possible.” It’s time to fix our rigged patent system so that patients can afford their medication. — (Financial Times, The New York Times)
5. Significant Savings From The Inflation Reduction Act
The drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act provide savings to patients, employers, employees, and the government. A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the new drug price law will save people on Medicare $25 billion and will reduce the federal deficit by $237 billion from 2022 to 2031. “This really does demonstrate the cost savings for both seniors and the Medicare program,” says Megan O’Reilly, AARP vice president for health and family issues. CBO emphasizes the impact of the law for people on Medicare, who will have better ability to afford and access their medications, leading to a decreased need for other medical care such as hospital visits. CBO also expects prices on negotiated drugs to drop by about 50 percent. Senators Manchin, Murray, and Markey spread the word this week about how the Inflation Reduction Act will provide relief from high drug prices for patients in their states. “This law is going to be life changing—and lifesaving—for so many seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare,” Senator Murray shared at a roundtable. The reforms are wildly popular — 79 percent of voters across party lines support the $35 monthly insulin copay caps which will be especially impactful to people of color, who are disproportionately affected by diabetes. The savings from the historic drug price law are long-awaited. — (Congressional Budget Office, AARP, Office of Senator Joe Manchin, Office of Senator Patty Murray, Boston Herald, Data For Progress, WisPolitics)
Have a great weekend, everyone!