Latest News | Nov 27, 2023
ICYMI: P4ADNow Advocates Speak Out – Share Personal Experiences With High Drug Prices, Highlight Big Pharma Abuses, and Celebrate Relief To Come from Medicare Negotiations
Wishing everyone a restful and restorative Thanksgiving break! Here’s a roundup featuring P4AD patient advocates at the virtual CMS Listening Sessions for the Medicare Negotiation Program
- David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs whose drugs carry a combined list price of more than $900,000 per year, kicked off the first day of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) patient focused listening sessions with remarks on taking blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis and the relief to come from its negotiated drug price. “Negotiation on Eliquis is going to help millions of patients like me have both better health and improved financial well-being,” David explained. The following day, longtime P4AD patient advocate Judy Aiken shared her experience from her home in Maine at the Enbrel listening session: “Enbrel’s high cost has been a real burden, a constant anxiety. A lower price for this drug will be life changing for me and thousands of other patients.”
- P4AD patient advocate Bob Parant, who lives with type 1 diabetes and introduced the President in September last year following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, spoke at the listening sessions about his high out-of-pockets costs for Entresto — a heart failure medication that keeps him alive following a recent triple bypass surgery. “I am always on high alert with all of my meds. Many do not realize what additional stress this presents besides living with the disease itself,” remarked Bob at the patient listening session for Entresto. Thankfully, in 2026, he won’t have to worry so much about managing the high costs of his life-saving medication due to Medicare negotiation. Lynn Scarfuto, a P4AD advocate who takes oral chemotherapy drug Imbruvica for her leukemia, celebrated the announcement that her anticancer medication will be eligible for Medicare negotiation in 2026. She shared at the Imbruvica listening session that the monthly list price of her medication is hugely cost prohibitive at $17,000 a month and hopes that “future negotiations will make these meds more affordable” for patients like her on Medicare.
- P4AD patient advocate Steven Hadfield, who lives with a rare blood cancer and type 2 diabetes, and who introduced the President when the first 10 drugs selected for negotiation were announced, shared the relief he felt when his diabetes medication, Januvia, was announced as one of the first drugs that Medicare will negotiate a lower price for in 2026. “I know Medicare negotiation is a blessing not a detriment for patients like me, as a decrease in price would allow working class Americans to feel some well needed financial relief and enjoy access to more affordable medications,” said Steven during the Januvia listening session. At the Stelara listening session, P4AD patient advocate Doug Lusty commented on the financial burden caused by the high cost of Stelara in addition to his other expensive medications that he depends on to treat his Crohn’s disease and diabetes. “I am already on a fixed-income and have been hit financially hard with medical expenses between my wife and I, which means lower drug prices will ultimately let us enjoy some savings and give us more breathing room that we desperately need.”
Despite the presence of pharma talking points saturating the sessions, we want to express our deepest thanks to all P4AD patient advocates, whose stories illuminate the urgency and impact of Medicare negotiations. It’s undeniable that the success of the historic drug price reforms within the Inflation Reduction Act is due to the power and dedication of these patient advocates speaking out in direct opposition to pharma interests.
Have a great holiday!
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. Deflating Big Pharma Lies
- We know that Big Pharma will go to extreme lengths to preserve its monopoly pricing power and egregious profits. It turns out that their fear mongering claims about the Inflation Reduction Act are falling flat. Compared to last year, drug company research & development (R&D) spending is increasing and mergers and acquisition (M&A) is on the uptick, according to a study by ATI Advisory. Big Pharma is flush with cash! Despite Big Pharma’s constant spewing of misinformation, patients are able to steer through this shroud of propaganda and are already feeling relief from the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act. “Innovation is meaningless if no one can afford it,” wrote Jim from Minnesota in a letter-to-the editor. “Medicare negotiation will finally allow the program to look at whether drug prices are justified and move toward a system that rewards meaningful advances, leading to more innovation.” The historic drug price law is prioritizing patients’ health and financial well-being, while also continuing to enable innovation. — (ATI Advisory, Duluth News Tribune)
2. Patients Need Competition To Lower Prices
- There was more evidence this week that drug companies game our patent and regulatory systems to maintain market exclusivity and charge patients high prices. According to analysis published in JAMA, between 2004 and 2021, a U.S. appeals court found 36 cases in which companies failed to disclose accurate information to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO). More than 60 percent of those invalidated patents were attributed to medical products covered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This draws attention to the question of the genuine “innovation” being brought by these patents filed by drug companies. One of the study’s authors, Sean Tu, argued that the USPTO should improve communication with the FDA to prevent patent abuse. “If somebody asked me how many people are speeding on the highway? I would say I‘ve no idea, but I can tell you how many are caught speeding. And if 50% are driving red Corvettes, then maybe we should look at red Corvettes. In this instance, the companies with FDA-approved products are red Corvettes,” Tu told STAT. “Perversely, patents can also create incentives for innovations that create very little value,” wrote James and Robert Rebitzer in a STAT opinion. They continue to explain that Big Pharma uses secondary patents and other tactics that “offer little benefit to patients and society” and exist purely to extend monopoly periods. That’s why we’re pushing for bipartisan bills that will fix our rigged patent system and close regulatory loopholes to encourage competition and lower drug prices. — (JAMA, STAT, STAT)
3. Insulin Affordability Crisis
- On Monday, the Congressional Black Caucus convened to discuss how diabetes disproportionately affects Black Americans and called for more action to help provide relief for insulin costs. Rep. Shontel Brown cited a study last year that found 23 percent of Black people were rationing their prescribed insulin due to high costs. This devastating reality for many patients who depend on insulin is enabled by rampant patent abuses from the drug corporation cartel that controls the world’s insulin market. Drug companies making insulin products regularly file for multiple patents after FDA approval and extend market exclusivity, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. While the $35 insulin copay cap in the Inflation Reduction Act for patients on Medicare represents a significant step in the right direction, many people in the U.S. are still facing high costs and can be forced to ration or go completely without their insulin which can be deadly. We will keep fighting to ensure that everyone can access insulin at prices they can afford. — (Cleveland.com, PLOS Medicine)
BONUS: P4AD’s David Mitchell was one of several co-authors on this new paper in Nature that examines the ways that universities and academic medical centers, which receive large amounts of funding from taxpayers, can better ensure medicines including novel gene therapies are priced to maximize public health and lessen the burden that high drug prices impose on patients and society.
Have a great weekend!
Happy Veterans Day to our nation’s heroes and their families.
In the spirit of the Medicare negotiation listening sessions, a reminder that the Department of Veteran Affairs has been negotiating drug prices since 1993.
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. CMS Listening Sessions Continue
- This was the second week of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) virtual listening sessions where patients taking the first 10 drugs eligible for Medicare negotiations shared their experiences with high drug prices and what this relief will mean to them. And once again, we witnessed the reiteration of pharmaceutical industry talking points that do not align with the best interests of patients. Standing up to Pharma, P4AD patient advocate Lynn Scarfuto applauded the inclusion of her costly cancer treatment, Imbruvica — which carries a monthly list price of $17,000 — on the list of negotiated drugs. P4AD patient advocate Steven Hadfield, 71, (who introduced the President when the first 10 drugs selected for negotiation was announced) shared the relief he felt when his diabetes medication, Januvia, was announced as one of the first drugs that Medicare will negotiate a lower price for. “Lower drug prices will firmly allow me to rest more often and hopefully allow me to transition from working full time to working part time,” said Steven during the Januvia listening session. Bob Parant, who shared his story with CMS last week, was featured on the White House’s Facebook page, highlighting the power of patient advocacy. We are eager to see the negotiation process continue, and long-awaited relief delivered to patients, like Lynn, Bob, and Steven, who have been forced to pay unreasonably high drug prices. Millions of patients on Medicare will see significant savings when lower negotiated drug prices take effect in 2026. (P4ADNOW, Protect Our Care)
2. Momentum To Curb Patent Abuses
- It’s no secret that big drug companies game the patent system to preserve their monopoly pricing power, delay generic competition from coming to market, and push medications out of reach for far too many patients. This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doubled down on its promise to address patent abuses and challenged more than 100 patents held by the makers of asthma inhalers, epinephrine autoinjectors, and other essential medications. “We’re taking this action because I think, as we all know, there is a crisis in our country when it comes to health care costs,” FTC Chair Lina Khan told NPR. “And all too often, people are not able to afford the medicines they need, the life-saving drugs that they need.” In an interview with Current Affairs, Nick Dearden, global director of Global Justice Now and author of Pharmanomics, detailed how drug companies game the patent system to extend market exclusivity, such as “evergreening” where drug companies make small, insignificant changes to a drug just to earn more patents. As a result, lower-cost generics are prevented from hitting the market and delivering relief to patients who depend on these life-saving medications. We must continue to crack down on Big Pharma’s deceitful maneuvers and pass laws to fix our patent system and close regulatory loopholes. — (NPR, Current Affairs)
BONUS: For our bilingual readers – shout out to our very own Jesse Aguirre for his op ed published in El Planeta yesterday in Spanish on how Patient stories have the potential to overturn the status quo of Big Pharma. Bravo!
Have a great weekend!
On November 1st, Ady Barkan, co-founder of Be A Hero, widely-known advocate in the fight for health justice, and who got his start in health advocacy at UAEM, died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at 39 years old. When he was diagnosed in 2016, Ady chose to leverage his own powerful patient story to persuade policymakers to prioritize people over profit. He will be sorely missed but his impact and legacy to help transform the US healthcare system will continue.
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. P4ADNow Urges Senate Leadership To Pass Competition Bills
- On Tuesday, over 60 organizations sent a letter, co-led by P4ADNow and AARP, to the Senate to advance a package of bipartisan bills to lower drug prices through reforms to our patent and regulatory systems and increased competition. The organizations — representing patients, consumers, seniors, churches, students, and disease advocacy groups — called on senators to urgently pass these reforms to lower prescription drug prices for millions of patients. The letter addressed to Senate leadership underscored that these reforms have significant bipartisan backing from a majority of voters and that this package of bills will save taxpayers $2.5-3 billion over the next 10 years. “Senators on both sides of the aisle have put in far too much work on these bills over several years to let this opportunity be lost,” said P4ADNow’s Merith Basey. “The moment is at hand to enact reforms that voters overwhelmingly support and which will help patients of all ages regardless of whether they get their health care in the private or public sector.” We urge the 118th Senate to ensure that patients and consumers are seeing relief from high drug prices and advance bipartisan legislation to curb abuses to our patent and regulatory systems and encourage generic and biosimilar competition coming to market. Congress, over to you! — (P4ADNow, MedPage City, Inside Health Policy, Campaign For Sustainable Rx Prices)
2. P4AD Patient Advocates At CMS Listening Sessions
- As part of the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began its series of virtual patient-focused listening sessions this week. Dedicated P4AD patient advocates Judy Aiken and Bob Parant, shared their experiences with high drug prices and what Medicare negotiation would mean for them. “Enbrel’s high cost has been a burden, in cost and anxiety. A lower price for this drug will be life changing for me and thousands of other patients,” remarked Judy at the Enbrel listening session. While the sessions are intended to be an opportunity for patients, caregivers, and patient advocacy groups to share input related to the first 10 drugs eligible for Medicare negotiations, common Big Pharma talking points were clearly on display via numerous representatives of so-called advocacy groups. P4AD’s David Mitchell, who participated in the initial session for Eliquis, a blood thinner medication he relies on as a patient living with multiple myeloma, told Politico that “[Big] Pharma tried to hijack the first meeting with its paid front groups.” Next week, the listening sessions continue through November 15th. Keep an eye out for passionate P4AD patient advocates expected to share their lived experiences with unjustified high drug prices and what it means to have Medicare negotiate lower drug prices for their essential medicines. — (The White House, Protect Our Care, Politico)
3. Medicare Negotiations Will Bring Relief To Patients
- Patients on Medicare are eager for successful implementation of the historic program and will begin to feel relief when lower negotiated drug prices take effect in 2026. In an interview with MedPageToday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure explainedhow patients and taxpayers will see relief from Medicare negotiation: “So it helps people in Medicare, but it also helps all of us as taxpayers who are supporting the Medicare system to make sure we’re getting the best deal.” Public Citizen released a report that called out Amgen for the drug company’s extensive patent abuses for its blockbuster drug Enbrel, one of the first selected drugs to be negotiated. Public Citizen argued that Medicare could have saved “$1,053,023,122 in less than four years” if competition had been allowed to come to market in 2019. Thankfully, patients on Medicare will see a lower negotiated price for this essential medication. — (MedPage Today, Public Citizen)
4. On The Horizon: Sickle Cell Disease Gene Therapy
- We are on the cusp of revolutionary cell and gene therapies coming to market that offer potentially curative benefits to patients. However, the looming question of how patients, taxpayers, and our health care system will pay for these treatments still remains to be answered. On Tuesday, the FDA advisory committee reviewed Exa-cel — a treatment using gene-editing tool CRISPR — which could become the first gene therapy for sickle cell disease if approved next month. Sickle cell disease affects 100,000 people in the U.S., and disproportionately impacts people who are Black or Brown. This cutting-edge, one-time treatment could save patients living with sickle cell disease from a lifetime of severe illness — but it’s expected multi-million dollar price tag will put this treatment out of reach for those who need it the most. “I’m worried that this will be a very highly lauded technology that people will not be able to use,” said Melissa Clearly, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who studies sickle cell. In an op-ed for STAT News, Dr. Vivian G. Cheung wrote that “without targeted investment in medical infrastructure, these innovations will remain inaccessible to many.” Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. — (NBC, WPR, STAT)
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. A New Chapter For Patients On Medicare
- Implementation of the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act continues as the Biden administration, health care advocacy groups, and elected officials share how the law is delivering long-sought relief to patients. At a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) roundtable, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and health care advocacy groups discussed how they can better educate consumers on the new reforms for patients on Medicare. Becerra emphasized the critical role these groups play in educating patients about the provisions that have already taken effect — capping insulin copays at $35 a month, and, for the first time, making all vaccines free. Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis shared remarks at Protect Our Care’s tour stop about how the reforms make essential medications more affordable: “This is an issue that affects real Pennsylvanians. It’s really important because the insulin and prescriptions are just outrageous right now. So, they need to have a break. I mean, myself alone, when I go for one medication, it’s $400. They cannot afford $400.” Finally, patients are seeing lower drug prices from the historic new law — and we’re eagerly awaiting the relief to continue as the other provisions are implemented in the future. — (HHS, WGAL)
2. Medicare Negotiations Are Crucial For Patients
- The Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on expensive, widely-used medications and undoubtedly bring savings to millions of patients. “It means that, for the first time, there will be an ability to have a little bit of counterweight to the pharmaceutical industry,” Andrea Ducas, Vice President of health policy at the Center For American Progress, told Fortune. When lower negotiated drug prices arrive in 2026 they will be monumental for patients on Medicare including those taking cancer drugs, blood thinners, autoimmune disease treatments, and some diabetes drugs. Last year, Bristol Myers Squibb blood thinner Eliquis, one of the drugs selected for the first round of Medicare negotiations, made “$11.8 billion in revenue…about 25% of the company’s $46 billion in total revenue in 2022.” C. Joseph Ross Daval and Aaron S. Kesselheim, drug price experts at the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics and Law (PORTAL) at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that debunks the claims made in recent lawsuits by pharmaceutical corporations to stop Medicare negotiations. The drug industry is trying to “achieve what it could not through the legislative process — maintaining unreasonably high brand-name drug prices at the expense of the American public.” wrote Daval and Kesselheim. Medicare negotiation will deliver relief to patients who have been forced to pay high drug prices and we won’t back down in our fight to ensure the successful implementation of this historic reform. — (Fortune, Accountable.US, The Washington Post)
3. Big Pharma Puts Profits Over Patients
- While Big Pharma loves to shed crocodile tears about drug price reforms hurting their revenue stream, it turns out that actually — they are doing more than fine. In fact, they are exceeding expectations on profit margins and doubling down on lobbying efforts. This week, Novartis raised its full-year earnings forecast for the third time. Keytruda, Merck’s blockbuster drug, has seen “significant revenue growth” since last quarter, with sales growing 17 percent to $6.3 billion. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent over $20 million this year on lobbying, making the trade group one of the top spenders in the industry. It’s clear that Big Pharma executives are busy lining their pockets with piles of cash. All the while, patients are struggling to afford their medications. Nearly 40 percent of working-age adults reported skipping or delaying necessary health care or a prescription drug in the past year due to cost, according to a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund. It’s time to prioritize the health and financial well-being of patients over profit margins. Lower drug prices for all patients now. — (Reuters, SeekingAlpha, Merck, CQ Roll Call, Commonwealth Fund)
BONUS PHOTO: Check out our long time P4AD patient advocates Sue, Lisa, Judy, and a shout-out to Pamela who met with their respective senators on Capitol Hill to share their experiences with high drug prices and what competition would represent to them! Way to go ladies!
Have a great weekend!
Quick note to readers: This was Audrey’s last week (in review) at P4AD! She’s been honored to be in your inbox for the last couple years. We’ll be excited to announce P4AD’s incoming communications and media director very soon and we’ll see you here next week as usual.
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. Enrolling In Medicare? The Inflation Reduction Act Will Bring Savings
- The annual open enrollment period for people on Medicare kicked off this week – this time with added drug price savings built into the Inflation Reduction Act. Beginning in 2024, drug price reforms like the cap on out-of-pocket costs for patients on Medicare who fall into the “catastrophic” coverage tier are “going to help people who have very expensive medications for conditions like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and hepatitis,” said KFF’s Tricia Neuman. The cap will begin to phase in next year when people on Medicare will pay zero after they reach the catastrophic phase of Medicare Part D which should be at about $3,250-3,500 in spending. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse touted the provisions in the historic law and explained that the reforms are “lowering health care costs for seniors, and finally breaking the grip of Big Pharma, providing much-needed relief to Rhode Islanders on Medicare.” In a letter-to-the-editor, Diane J. Young cited Medicare negotiation as an important way to push back on the rising costs of prescription drugs in the U.S. For Bob in Nevada, lower drug prices through Medicare negotiation will save him money on his blood thinner medication, Xarelto — one of the most expensive medicines in Medicare Part D. Further in the coming years, patients living with cancer are going to see significantly lowered costs for their treatments because of Medicare negotiations and the $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs, explained Joshua Cohen in a column for Forbes. The savings will just keep coming – we’re excited for patients across the country to enroll in Medicare and feel the relief in their pocketbooks from the Inflation Reduction Act. — (KFF, The Newport Buzz, The Washington Post, Nevada Current, Forbes)
2. Patients Depend On Patent & Regulatory Reforms
- While Congress is sorting out its end-of-year package bill (as well as the Speaker of the House), elected officials and drug price experts are pushing for passage of bipartisan bills to curb patent and regulatory abuses and increase competition to lower drug prices. Former Texas Rep. Joe Barton penned an op-ed that breaks down the tactics that Big Pharma employs to keep drug prices high, like “pay-for-delay” in which drug companies pay off generic makers to delay their drugs from coming to market. Earlier this month, the Mayo Clinic and LifePoint Health filed a lawsuit against Celgene over its multiple myeloma drug Revlimid — alleging that the drug company engaged in pay-for-delay deals to stall the sale of generic versions of the drug. “Whether the current legal landscape for pharmaceutical patents is good policy is a hotly debated topic,” wroteUPenn fellow Laura Delbow in an opinion piece. “Yet one thing is certain: Patents are a key reason why drug prices are so high.” We couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, there are bipartisan policies to rein in Big Pharma’s manipulation of our patent and regulatory systems. Senators, time to advance these bills. — (Irving Weekly, Fierce Healthcare, The Regulatory Review, Des Moines Register)
3. Addressing Launch Prices Of Gene Therapies
- Revolutionary cell and gene therapies will transform the lives of patients and offer potentially curative benefits. But these therapies are coming to market at outrageously high launch prices that put profit over the needs of patients and our health care system. P4AD’s David Mitchell told Bloomberg that these treatments will be “miraculous,” but a pressing question looms for patients about how to reach a fair price. Patients like David may one day turn to second line treatments like gene therapy to treat their conditions and will depend on the price being within reach. We need to address the high launch prices that Big Pharma charges patients and taxpayers. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. — (Bloomberg)
PRICE GOUGING ALERT: This week we learned Pfizer plans to set the U.S. price for its COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid at nearly $1,400. That’s more than double what the government currently pays and far more than what it costs to make. Outrageous.
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. Senators Celebrate Drug Price Reforms With Patients
- This week, Senators met with constituents in their states — and the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act were top of mind. Senators Tim Kaine and Tammy Baldwin discussed the benefits of lower negotiated prices for patients on Medicare and the $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs in their respective states. At a roundtable led by Senator Jacky Rosen and Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Director Meena Seshamani, an outpour of Nevada residents in attendance praised the $35 monthly insulin copay cap as a huge relief to their drug costs. “I was an immediate beneficiary of the drop in insulin rates,” said David Berman, a retired attorney who lives with type 1 diabetes and participated in the roundtable discussion. “We were paying the $70 a month (per dose) and starting at the beginning of the year, $35 a month. That adds up.” In New Mexico, Senator Luján hosted a town hall with health care experts and local advocates who all touted the monthly insulin copay cap as a victory for patients on Medicare. “I am proud to have helped enable Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs,” Senator Baldwin remarked. “Negotiating drugs under Medicare will not only help our seniors but it will help drive down prices for those with private health insurance.” Couldn’t agree more – the Inflation Reduction Act provides the long-awaited relief millions of patients desperately need. — (WTVR, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Office of Senator Tammy Baldwin, The Freeman, Las Vegas Sun, Albuquerque Journal)
2. Medicare Negotiation: A Monumental Step For Patients
- Health care experts and advocates continued to debunk Big Pharma’s weak claims about Medicare negotiation and highlighted the many ways the new program will help patients. P4AD’s Merith Basey sat down with MedCity News at the 2023 HLTH Conference to discuss how the Medicare negotiation program is highly favorable among people living in the U.S. “Recent polls have also shown that it doesn’t matter on which side of the aisle you sit. Over 80% of people in this country believe that Medicare should negotiate.” In a letter to the editor, Dr. Elmore Rigamer explained that U.S taxpayers fund a large share of basic research leading to new drugs. LA Times Columnist Michael Hiltzik penned a piece about how Big Pharma is “whining about having to negotiate with Medicare,” when clearly the industry isn’t strapped for cash: “As the Democratic staff of the House Oversight and Reform Committee reported in December 2021, the largest drug companies spent more on dividends and stock buybacks ($578 billion) than R&D ($522 billion) from 2016 through 2020,” Hiltzik explained. Drug corporations’ efforts to thwart negotiations won’t withstand. Patients have faced the high cost of prescription drugs for too long, and lower negotiated prices are on the way. — (AARP, MedCity News, The Advocate, The Los Angeles Times)
3. Momentum For Reforming Our Patent And Regulatory Systems
- More momentum this week to restore fairness in our patent system and allow competition to lower drug prices for patients. The Center For American Progress (CAP) published a new report that highlights our rigged drug price system and recommends key bipartisan legislation to curb abuses of the patent system by drug companies. The report dives into the different patent abuse tactics — like product hopping, patent thickets, and sham citizen petitions — that Big Pharma takes on to preserve its monopoly pricing power. In an op-ed, Montana Rep. Mike Yakawich further echoed that there are currently bipartisan solutions in Congress to rein in Big Pharma’s aggressive patent abuses. Registered Nurse Jaclyn Clark penned an op-ed that explains how these “perverse and unfair practices” lead to the high prices that Mainers are paying at the pharmacy. Patients deserve access to medications they need at prices they can afford. We urge the Senate to pass bipartisan legislation to advance legislation that curb these abuses of our patent and regulatory system and promote competition to lower drug prices. — (Center For American Progress, Ravalli Republic, Portland Press Herald)
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to the Week in Review.
1. A Big Win For Medicare Negotiation
- It’s official — Medicare has started negotiations with all the makers of the first 10 drugs selected. P4ADNow’s Merith Basey celebrated this important step inthe movement towards lowering prices for the millions of patients who take these essential and costly medications including cancer treatments, blood thinners, autoimmune disease treatments, and some diabetes drugs. According to the White House, “the 10 drugs selected for negotiation accounted for $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for an estimated 9 million Medicare enrollees in 2022.” Lower negotiated drug prices will bring savings to millions of patients on Medicare when the negotiation program takes effect in 2026. It comes as no surprise that voters across party lines support implementation of the Medicare negotiation program and overwhelmingly — by more than a five-to-one margin — oppose the lawsuits trying to halt the negotiation process. We’ll keep fighting for successful implementation of Medicare negotiations to ensure patients and taxpayers get a better deal on these widely-used, high cost medications. — (P4ADNow, CMS, The New York Times, The White House, Times-News, Forbes)
2. Push For Competition To Lower Drug Prices
- Patients have been financially burdened by expensive prescription drugs for far too long and urgently need generic and biosimilar competition to enter the market to lower prices. Compared to peer nations, the U.S. spends more than twice as much on prescription drugs per person, according to a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund. The authors of the study found that prescription drug prices are two to three times those in other nations, with branded drugs accounting for 80 percent of prescription drug spending. These essential medications are priced out of reach for patients, who are forced to risk putting their health in jeopardy by not taking their drugs as prescribed. A CDC report in 2021 estimated that of the “60% of adult Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past year, 9.2 million (8%) did not take their medications as prescribed to save money.” This is not acceptable. A solution? Generics and biosimilars can drive down prices. A recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report found that biosimilars have significantly lowered costs for patients on Medicare and assessed that they can be used more widely to increase savings. Thankfully, there is a real opportunity in Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that increases generic and biosimilar competition to lower drug prices for patients. Let’s get it done. — (Medical Economics, Commonwealth Fund, Public Citizen, CDC, HHS, Politico)
3. Patients Need Affordable Vaccines
- Everyone deserves access to live-saving vaccines. Yet, even when research leading to the development of vaccines is primarily taxpayer funded, Big Pharma often swoops in once they are considered profitable, and is able to dictate their price. This week, two pioneering scientists — Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman — whose decades-long research in mRNA technology lead to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. P4AD’s David Mitchell applauded the scientists, and highlighted that the taxpayer grants funded their pivotal research and saved millions of lives: “The foundational work by Karikó, Weissman with the support of [the National Institutes of Health] NIH enabled the mRNA technology to be ready for development in record time when COVID-19 attacked the world in 2020.” In 2022, drug companies planned to raise the price of their COVID-19 vaccine more than six times what the U.S. government initially paid. Classic Big Pharma putting profits before patients. In a powerful essay published by ProPublica, Anna Maria Barry-Jester detailed how drug company GSK delayed rollout of its tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, developed with government and non-profit funding, to pursue more lucrative business opportunties. Profiteering from pandemics and deadly disease is abominable. The U.S. government and taxpayers deserve better, especially after footing the bill for key research that has helped and improved countless lives. — (The New York Times, ProPublica)
Have a great weekend!