Congrats to Lizzo for winning this year’s Elevate Prize Catalyst Award! We were proud to have P4AD’s Merith Basey representing patients at the #MakeGoodFamous summit this week. It’s About Damn Time [to lower drug prices]!
Welcome To The Week In Review.
1. Momentum For PBM Reform
- Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) are continuing to face scrutiny from Congress, federal agencies, employers, and organizations representing patients. Following last week’s win in the Senate HELP Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed a package of bipartisan bills on Wednesday that include price transparency and PBM legislation. “PBM measures have particular momentum,“ Axios reported. “Versions of transparency and PBM bills could end up in a broader legislative package later this year.” That same day, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health held a hearing that also looked into how PBMs are a factor in driving up costs for patients. “The rebates that are negotiated by PBMs are completely confidential,” Dr. Benjamin Rome, health policy researcher at Harvard Medical School, said. “Shining some light on the prices that are actually being paid and making it clear where the problems are in the PBM business model would be extraordinarily helpful.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continued its scrutiny of PBM practices — the agency ramped up its ongoing investigation into PBMs this week by issuing orders to two group purchasing organizations (which negotiate drug rebates on behalf of PBMs) to provide details on their shady business practices. Employers spoke up on this issue as well — the Purchaser Business Group on Health (PBGH) outlined four key reforms regarding PBMs: eliminating spread pricing, instituting radical transparency, ensuring 100 percent of rebates are passed to patients, and making PBMs fiduciaries. “The fact that PBMs limit patient access to life-saving prescription drugs and strip doctors of treatment options is unconscionable. PBMs are supposed to lower drug costs and increase access to vital medicines,” wrote David Reeves, executive director of the Alabama Kidney Foundation, in an op-ed. “Congress has taken steps to reduce harmful PBM business practices, but more must be done.” Well said, David — looks like momentum is growing to finally crack down on PBM practices. — (House Energy and Commerce Committee, Axios, House Ways and Means Committee, Fierce Healthcare, Federal Trade Commission, Fierce Healthcare, Alabama Political Reporter)
2. Scamming and Cheating: Big Pharma’s Middle Name
- More egregious evidence this week of Big Pharma shamelessly scamming patients and taxpayers. First up: tax gaming. The drug industry gets most of its revenue from drug sales in the U.S., but avoids paying domestic taxes by “assigning patents and other forms of intellectual property” to other countries overseas. Senator Ron Wyden explained that this tactic “allows these hugely profitable companies to pay tax rates lower than many middle-class Americans,” who are also left to pay nearly three times what other wealthy nations pay for the same prescription drugs. Second: antitrust law violations. The Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK) and the American Economic Liberties Project released a groundbreaking new report that found Big Pharma’s antitrust violations cost American families and government health programs an additional $40 billion in 2019 alone. “The patent system is at the root of enabling many of the antitrust violations we identified and which are leading to higher drug prices,” said Tahir Amin, an executive director of I-MAK. Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped up to curb anticompetitive drug company behavior that harms patients and keeps prices high. This week, the agency filed a lawsuit to stop Amgen Inc. from acquiring Horizon Therapeutics – a move that would prevent generics from coming to market. The lawsuit sent a clear message to the industry: “The FTC won’t hesitate to challenge mergers that enable pharmaceutical conglomerates to entrench their monopolies at the expense of consumers and fair competition.” Messaged received: Amgen immediately agreed not to quickly close on its $27.8 billion acquisition. We must continue to crack down on Big Pharma’s scamming and cheating and pass laws that fix our rigged patent system, ensure the industry pays its fair share in taxes, and hold drug companies accountable for antitrust violations. — (New York Times, Fierce Pharma, American Economic Liberties Project and Initiative for Medicines, Access, & Knowledge (I-MAK), Common Dreams, Federal Trade Commission, Reuters)
3. Numbers Don’t Lie: Drug Prices Are Notoriously High
- Reports and news coverage this week confirm what we already know — drug prices and the cost of medical treatments are outrageously high and patients are suffering as a result. A new study published in JAMA found that 1 in 5 adults over the age of 65 “either skipped, delayed, or took less medication than was prescribed, or took someone else’s medication last year” because of high drug costs. 8.5 percent of participants in the study said they had to forego basic needs — like gas and groceries — because of high drug costs, and almost 5 percent said they went into debt to get their medications. Patients who live with breast cancer — the most expensive cancer, as reported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — face treatment costs ranging between $20,000 to $100,000. KFF looked into Leqembi, a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease currently in clinical trials, which carries a list price of $26,500 — an outrageous amount of money. People on Medicare taking the drug could see more than $5,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval. “Even with Medicare coverage … Leqembi could be beyond the reach of many people with Medicare, whose median income is around $30,000 per person,” explained KFF. “… the high cost of treatment could raise equity concerns if it means Black and Hispanic beneficiaries are less likely to gain access to this treatment because they can’t afford it.” We need a system that ensures patients can access drugs at prices they can afford — both right now and for new, innovative treatments on the horizon. We will keep fighting until all patients can afford their medicines. (NBC News, Health Central, KFF)
BONUS: P4AD’s Merith Basey went head-to-head with pharma executives this week at the Financial Times US Pharma and Biotech Summit! During a panel discussion on the Inflation Reduction Act, Merith debunked the industry’s false claims about innovation, explained how the new law will help patients who are struggling with high drug prices, and set the record straight on the role of taxpayer investment in R&D. Thanks for advocating for people over profit, Merith!
Have a great weekend, everyone!