STATEMENT: P4ADNow Blasts Merck & Co’s Bogus Lawsuit; Corrects The Record On Medicare Negotiation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement was issued by David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, in response to Merck & Co’s lawsuit filed against the U.S. government over the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare negotiation provision:
“Merck’s bogus lawsuit bemoans Medicare’s negotiation authority as “tantamount to extortion” – but the truth is, Big Pharma companies like Merck are the ones who have been extorting patients for years, forcing them to pay unjustified prices or sacrifice their health.
“The reality is, drug corporations that are subject to Medicare’s new authority – and who already negotiate with every other high-income country in the world – will engage in a negotiation process after setting their own launch prices and enjoying nine years or more of monopoly profits. Contrary to the lawsuit’s claims, the framework laid out by Medicare for negotiation will actually incentivize innovation because the government will pay more for more innovative products by centering the clinical value of a drug in the negotiation process.
“We believe that courts will see Merck’s lawsuit for what it is: a meritless attempt to maintain its ability to unilaterally set prices that are untethered to quality at the expense of patients. The truth is, implementation of Medicare negotiation is a desperately needed, long-awaited rebalancing of our drug price system that will help millions of patients obtain the medications they need at prices they can afford while ensuring continued innovation.”
The groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in 2022, included:
Medicare negotiation: For the first time ever, Medicare is required to negotiate the prices of certain high-cost drugs — finally undoing the nearly 20-year ban on Medicare using its purchasing power to get a better deal for Americans.
Curbing drug company price gouging: For the first time ever, the Inflation Reduction Act will penalize drug companies for increasing drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.
Medicare Part D out-of-pocket caps: For the first time ever, there will be an annual limit on the amount people on Medicare pay for the prescriptions they pick up at the pharmacy. In 2025, that limit will be set at $2,000, when right now some people pay more than $15,000 out-of-pocket each year.
$35 monthly insulin copay cap for Medicare: Starting earlier this year, people on Medicare now pay no more than $35 per monthly prescription for insulin.
Free vaccines: Starting earlier this year, vaccines are now free for people on Medicare.
This September, Medicare will name the first 10 drugs that will be subject to its negotiation authority. Several blockbuster products made by Merck, including type 2 diabetes medicine Januvia, are expected to be candidates for negotiated prices under the new program.
Januvia, which is taken by nearly 1 million people on Medicare, has been on the market since 2006 without any competitors. Since 2017 Medicare Part D has spent more than $17 billion on the drug, which is priced at $547 for a month’s supply.
Despite Merck’s false claims about innovation, Medicare negotiation will reduce U.S. spending on drugs by only about $25 billion a year in a market projected to be more than $850 billion per year — less than a 3 percent reduction in spending cannot possibly cripple innovation.
Happy Pride Month! 🏳️🌈
Welcome To The Week In Review.
1. Drug Prices Are Too High And Patients Pay The Price
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report yesterday that shows millions of adults in the United States are not taking their medications as prescribed because of high costs. The data reveals that in 2021, about 9.2 million people “tried to save money by skipping doses, taking less than prescribed or delaying a prescription fill.” Women were more likely than men to “skip, delay or take less medication than was prescribed because of cost,” and people with disabilities were about “three times more likely than those without disabilities to ration their medications, as were people with fair or poor health compared with those with good health.” Not taking medicines can “make health conditions worse, result in more serious illness and lead to additional expensive treatment,” said Eric Tichy, a pharmacist and division chair of pharmacy supply solutions at the Mayo Clinic. And in some cases, it can have life-threatening consequences. We won’t stop fighting until reforms to our drug price system extend to everyone, especially those most historically disenfranchised. — (CNN, NBC)
2. The Truth About The Inflation Reduction Act
Big Pharma dished out more lies this week about the Inflation Reduction Act’s effect on exclusivity periods for small molecule (9 years) versus biologic drugs (13 years). John Barkett, former Biden administration senior policy adviser, set the record straight: “today you get five years of exclusivity for a small molecule drug and 12 years of exclusivity for a biologic. Arguably, those exclusivities have a bigger impact on potential profits than when negotiation occurs,” Barkett told Politico. “I can’t recall ever hearing these arguments made about exclusivities in the past.” ZING! The Inflation Reduction Act actually contains more protections for small-molecule medicines because it narrows the difference in years of exemption from Medicare negotiation between biologics and small molecules to four years. Bottom line: the Inflation Reduction Act helps patients. A recent study in JAMA estimated that over 125,000 people on Medicare Part D would have paid lower out-of-pocket costs for “ultra-expensive” medications if the $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs had been in effect in 2019. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, many patients on Medicare will feel relief when the new cap takes effect in 2025. — (Politico, Fierce Pharma)
3. The Looming Question Of Paying For Cell And Gene Therapies
We’re on the brink of new, remarkable cell and gene therapies coming to market – but the question of how individuals and our healthcare system will pay for them remains top of mind. “Paying millions of dollars for one therapy is daunting for payers and has caused a lot of discussion in the sector about how best to address the issue,” explained Inside Precision Medicine. A new gene therapy for sickle cell disease – which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S. and disproportionately impacts African Americans — is a prime example, as the new cure on the horizon will likely be priced at $2 million to $3.5 million. “Because sickle cell disease disproportionately affects minority people… and because it has such an impact on quality of life and productivity, it tends to make people fall into a lower socioeconomic range,” said Dr. Lewis Hsu, chief medical officer of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. A new study from Yale echoed similar concerns: “Sickle cell disease is a prototypical rare disease that … historically [impacts a] marginalized patient population.” George Goshua, MD, MSc, assistant professor of medicine remarked. The cure “could be a ‘loss’ on equity when it further separates health outcomes in the poorest versus wealthiest patients.” We need to reform our system to address high prices for cell and gene therapies in order to maximize public health and equity. All patients deserve access to life-saving medication. — (Inside Precision Medicine, KDH News, Yale School of Medicine)
BONUS: William Feldman and Aaron Kesselheim’s new Washington Post op-ed shines light on yet another way drug companies abuse our patent system to protect lucrative monopolies at the cost of patient health and financial well-being. Worth a read!
Have a great weekend!
The 20 highest-paid drug industry CEOs each made $20 million or more last year. That’s enough to buy about 28,000 Taylor Swift tickets or 57,000 Beyonce tickets. Drug pricing sure is ready for its Renaissance Era.
Welcome To The Week In Review.
1. PBM Reforms Are In The House
Bipartisan support is growing in the House for reforms related to the practices of Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs). On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee continued its investigation into PBMs with a hearing that examined the middlemen’s tactics that drive up costs for patients. Both sides of the aisle participated in lively dialogue. Republican Chairman James Comer’s opening remarks summarized the problem with PBMs’ opaque practices: “PBMs engage in self-benefitting practices that boost their bottom line without a benefit to patients.” Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez skillfully explained how the profit-motivated practices of PBMs (who collect undisclosed rebates) is “focused on who’s making how much money, instead of what people are getting the treatment that they need.” Exactly! We need increased transparency with regard to the practices of PBMs to be sure they are serving patients, not just their bottom line. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup on Wednesday that advanced a package that includesbills to address PBM transparency requirements and accountability. We applaud representatives for shining a light on the middlemen’s practices and advocating for patients! — (Endpoints, House Oversight Committee, P4ADNow, Axios)
2. “A Price That Is Simply Too High”
Gene therapies – truly groundbreaking treatments that could treat and possibly cure some of the globe’s most challenging conditions – carry outrageous price tags that raise major concerns about how patients and taxpayers will be able to pay for them. FiercePharma compiled a special report this week that lists the top ten most expensive drugs in the U.S. in 2023. Many of the drugs are gene therapies – and the numbers are shocking. Hemgenix, a one-time hemophilia B treatment, ranks as the most expensive drug in the world with a whopping $3.5 million price tag. Luxturna, a rare-disease treatment for vision loss, arrived on the market at $850,000 in 2018 and still continues to be one of the most expensive treatments today. “Our system cannot handle unjustified prices like this, and the new payment models announced today are merely a way to disguise a price that is simply too high,” shared P4AD’s David Mitchell in regards to the price of Luxturna. Krystal Biotech’s Vijuvek is the first approved gene therapy to treat rare skin disease – but it comes with a price tag of $500,000 per year. Who can afford that? New innovation is worthless unless patients can afford it. — (FiercePharma, CBS News)
3. The Inflation Reduction Act: More Relief Is On The Horizon
While millions of patients are already getting much needed relief from the new drug price law provisions that went into place at the beginning of the year, members of Congress are spreading the word about even more patients who will also see savings from the soon-to-be implemented provisions. At a House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Melanie Stansbury explained how Medicare negotiation will deliver much needed savings to her constituents in New Mexico when the provision is implemented in 2026. Stansbury added that this momentum is significant for “our parents, or grandparents, or children, people who are unable to actually access lifesaving care medications, because number one, they cannot afford it.” Rep. Terri Sewell joined Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure at a fireside chat on health care access where they discussed the impact of the new drug price law: “We had a great conversation about the work of Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to expand health care access and lower prescription drug prices for Alabamians.” It’s clear that the new law will provide relief to patients who have been forced to pay exorbitant drug prices at the mercy of drug companies. (Los Alamos Daily Post, Alabama Today)
BONUS: Advocates are fighting back against high drug prices at the state level as well. In Colorado, patients like Kris Garcia have been pivotal in the passage of Prescription Drug Affordability Boards (PDABs). Read more about the state’s implementation of its new PDAB here!
Happy Memorial Day! Hope everyone enjoys the three-day weekend! ☀️🇺🇸
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 keyreforms 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!
Welcome To The Week In Review.
1. Critical Win: Senate HELP Passes Bipartisan Package
On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted to advance a major package of bipartisan bills to lower drug prices for patients. This legislation would promote transparency, competition, and accountability as well as curb anticompetitive behavior committed by pharmaceutical corporations and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). “This package of bills represents a significant step towards restoring accountability to the U.S. drug price system so that it prioritizes patients, rather than the bottom line of the pharma and PBM industries,” P4AD’s Merith Basey remarked. The markup was preceded by a HELP hearing the previous day, where the big three insulin CEOs and the big three Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) were grilled by senators from both sides of the aisle on high drug prices and industry profits. Charmain Sanders summarized: “If somebody in the real world is watching this hearing, they’ve heard every single person from the drug companies and from the PBMs say, ‘We are working tirelessly to lower the cost of prescription drugs…’ And yet, at the end of the day, 1.3 million Americans are rationing their insulin.” Patientsknow that both the pharma and the PBM industries are to blame for high drug prices and that both need reform. Senate Majority Leader Schumer, it’s time to bring these bills to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. — (P4ADNow, The Hill, Bloomberg, Vox, The Hill, KFF, Politico, The Gander, Fox8)
2. Pushing Back On Big Pharma Lies
Big Pharma and its allies are continuing to spread false claims about the Inflation Reduction Act. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examine “Policies that Inhibit Innovation and Patient Access” – but patients know better than to believe the fearmongering of the industry and its allies. “We can achieve balance to have innovative, safe, and effective drugs at prices all people can afford. The Inflation Reduction Act is an example of policy that takes us in the right direction,” P4ADNow’s David Mitchell submitted in written testimony. At the hearing, Harvard Medical School professor and researcher Aaron Kesselheim explained how taxpayer funded research for the COVID vaccine “almost completely derisk[s] the investment for manufacturers.” And Rep. Lloyd Doggett fiercely set the record straight: “Patients come first. It is their health and livelihood — not drug prices — which must be non negotiable. Unaffordability and inaccessibility are not the unavoidable side effects of innovation.” David Mitchell also pushed back on Big Pharma’s lie that the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act hurt innovation and economically disadvantage small molecule drugs compared to biologics. “The Inflation Reduction Act actually contains more protections for small-molecule medicines because it narrows the difference in years of protection from Medicare negotiation between biologics and small molecules to 4 years,” he wrote in a letter to the editor. “That’s good news for patients like me who rely on both small-molecule drugs and biologics to stay alive.” — (P4ADNow, Endpoints, NY Daily News)
3. Applauding The Inflation Reduction Act
Members of Congress continue to spread the word about how the Inflation Reduction Act is helping patients across the county. “If you’re on Medicare, you won’t pay more than $2,000 a year out of pocket for drugs and keep in place that $35 limit on what a dose of insulin costs, because that’s been increased just for profit for corporations, not because it needs to be to cover the cost of production,” Congresswoman Dina Titus said at an event where she received an award for her continuous support for seniors. Senator Debbie Stabenowspoke with AARP this week about the new drug price law: “In the Inflation Reduction Act we did a number of things – one, finally we have given Medicare the authority to negotiate the best price.” She continued, “If the drug company raises the price of medicine faster than inflation, they are going to have to give a rebate back.” Patients in Nevada, Michigan, and across the country will continue to feel relief in drug prices thanks to the new law. — (KSNVABC4 West Michigan)
Have a great weekend, everyone!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement was issued by Merith Basey, executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, in response to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s vote to advance a package of bipartisan bills. This legislation would lower drug prices by promoting transparency, competition, and accountability and curbing anticompetitive behavior committed by pharmaceutical corporations and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs):
“On behalf of patients across the U.S., we applaud Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Cassidy, and the members of the Senate HELP Committee for passing bipartisan legislation to increase competition, incentivize innovation, require transparency, and crack down on opaque practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). This package of bills represents a significant step towards restoring accountability to the U.S. drug price system so that it prioritizes patients, rather than the bottom line of the pharma and PBM industries.
“We call on Senate Majority Leader Schumer to bring these bills to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. It’s high time we restore balance to our rigged drug price system – patients can’t wait!”
A recording of this morning’s Senate HELP Committee markup can be watched here.
The legislative package includes the following pieces of drug pricing legislation:
The Ensuring Timely Access to Generics Act of 2023 (S. 1067), led by Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Collins (R-ME), Bennet (D-CO), Rubio (R-FL), Baldwin (D-WI), and Braun (R-IN) would increase competition for generic drugs by cracking down on abuse of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) citizen petition process. P4ADNow has beenadvocatingforreforms to the citizen petition process since 2018.
The Retaining Access and Restoring Exclusivity (RARE) Act (S. 1214), introduced by Senators Baldwin (D-WI) and Braun (R-IN), would close a loophole in the FDA’s orphan drug approval process and restore incentives to develop drugs for rare diseases. The RARE Act is endorsed by P4ADNow.
The Increasing Transparency in Generic Drug Applications Act (S. 775), led by Senators Hassan (D-NH) and Paul (R-KY) will speed more affordable generic drugs to market by giving the FDA the authority to provide specific information on inactive ingredients and drug concentration levels to generic applicants working to come to market. S. 775 is endorsed by P4ADNow.
The Fair Accountability and Innovative Research (FAIR) Drug Pricing Act (S. 935), led by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Braun (R-IN), and Smith (D-MN) requires drug companies to provide notice and justification reports on certain prescription drug price increases. P4ADNow has endorsed the FAIR Act in three consecutive congresses.
The Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act (S. 1339), led by Chairman Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Cassidy (R-LA), bans spread pricing by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), requires that rebates be passed through to insurance companies, and increases transparency into the opaque practices of PBMs.
The Expanding Access to Low-Cost Generics Act of 2023 (S. 1114), led by Senators Smith (D-MN) and Braun (R-IN), restores incentives to bring generic products to market in a timely manner by addressing anticompetitive “parking” behavior.
An amendment led by Senators Braun (R-IN) and Marshall (R-KS), that would require the Department of Labor to conduct a study on what the impact would be if PBMs had fiduciary duties to the health plans and employers they serve.
Last week, more than 40 groups sent a letter to every member of the Senate to urge passage of legislation to lower drug prices by strengthening the U.S. patent and regulatory systems, spurring competition, and addressing opaque practices of PBMs to ensure they are serving patients and consumers first.
This bipartisan package can now receive votes on the Senate floor. Today’s markup follows the passage of five bipartisan bills out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.
A lovely recognition from Washingtonian (and on his 73rd birthday!🥳) of our founder David Mitchell who was an “integral player in forcing the prescription-drug provision into the Inflation Reduction Act.” Congrats, David! Well deserved.
Welcome To The Week In Review.
1. Dozens Of Organizations Pressure Senate To Lower Drug Prices
Over 40 organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging them to advance a package of bipartisan legislation this year to lower drug prices through increased competition, transparency, and accountability. The organizations — representing patients, consumers, seniors, churches, students, and disease advocacy groups — united in insisting senators focus on strengthening the U.S. patent and regulatory systems, increasing competition, and addressing the shady practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to ensure they are serving patients first. “There is bipartisan support in Congress to pass common-sense reforms that will further improve the U.S. drug pricing system and lower prices for more patients,” said P4ADNow’s David Mitchell. AARP, who co-led the letter with P4ADNow, emphasized: “More than 80 percent of voters across party lines want federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration to encourage more competition in the prescription drug marketplace.” There is clearly bipartisan momentum to pass meaningful drug price reforms this year. Next week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold two hearings — one with CEOs from insulin manufacturers and PBMs and another to mark up bipartisan legislation to close loopholes in the regulatory system and accelerate generic competition. We urge the 118th Senate to keep up the good work and prioritize advancing a package of bills to the Senate floor to lower drug prices for patients. — (P4ADNow, AARP, Bloomberg)
2. More Inflation Reduction Act Savings For Patients — “It’s huge.”
Patients are seeing savings thanks to the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act. More than 37,000 Tennesseans will benefit from the $2,000 out-of-pocket cost cap when it takes effect in 2025 and many West Virginians on Medicare are better able “to buy groceries, and pay their rent and utility bills” due to the $35 monthly insulin copay caps. Members of the Biden administration continued to share how the new historic drug price law is helping patients. “Well, as you know, we pay the highest drug cost of any advanced nation in the world … but now we reduced the cost of insulin from hundreds of dollars a month to $35 a month — for anyone on Medicare,” remarked President Biden at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) reception. Vice President Kamala Harris echoed similar sentiments, saying “we were able to cap the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. It’s huge.” Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton toured a senior living center in Virginia and touted the legislation, which will save Virginians who receive insulin through Medicare more than $500 per year. Becerra laid out the sizable impact of the new drug price law for American families: “The Inflation Reduction Act has now made it possible for families to be able to afford a lot of that health care that sometimes can cost a lot of money.” — (Citizen Tribune, Public News Service, The White House, The White House, Inside Nova)
3. Big Pharma’s Greed Knows No End
New numbers show that Big Pharma unsurprisingly has been cashing out on advertisements, lobbying spending, patent abuses, and huge CEO salaries. The pharma industry spent nearly $8.1 billion on ads in 2022 while patients struggled to afford life-saving medications. Health industry lobbying far outpaced any other sector with The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spending over $8 million in the first quarter of the year. Big Pharma CEOs took home eye-bulging amounts of pay: In 2022, Biogen CEO Chris Viehbacher was compensated $30.5 million and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made nearly $400 million from stock options (not to mention he raised his salary by 50% to $1.5 million). Meanwhile, Moderna announced this week that its updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will be priced up to $130 per shot — looks like Bancel plans to continue profiting off the backs of taxpayer funded research. Speaking of taxpayer dollars, a new study in Health Affairs shows that the U.S. government spent $143 million towards development and clinical testing of Truvada, the first approved HIV prevention pill. Yet drugmaker Gilead has hiked the price by more than 40% and made as much as $3 billion annually off the taxpayer-supported drug. Gilead’s trial — in which the federal government is suing Gilead for infringement on government-owned patents — began this week. While drug companies claim that high drug prices are needed to justify research and development, the truth is they simply want to line their coffers with more and more profit. (Fierce Pharma, Open Secrets,Fierce Pharma, Washington Post, Ars Technica, Health Affairs, Endpoints)
BONUS: Florida patient advocate Xanadu Roque eloquently speaks about her experience growing up with type 1 diabetes, issues with accessing insulin in her community, and the growing pressure from advocates to lower insulin prices. Checkitout!