The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Lies, deceit, and cartels! 

Welcome to the week in review in prescription drug pricing!

1. The gift that keeps on taking

An investigation into patient assistance programs reveals the truth. They are a tool used by Big Pharma to drive up drug prices and keep cash flowing in. — (KARE11

2. Former pharma exec makes jaw-dropping admission

Matt Eyles, the head of AHIP and former VP for Pfizer said “I sat in many pricing committee discussions; not once did anyone ever say ‘How much did we spend on research and development?'’” We can't even.  — (Axios)

3. Murky money grab

Pharma sets drug prices super high. The middleman get really really rich. Patients get squeezed. Ohio reporters question our broken system.  — (Columbus Dispatch)

4. Insulin cartel deserves a red card

The unjust and seemingly coordinated insulin price hikes have driven people on both sides of the aisle to demand answers. Congress must investigate the insulin drug cartel.— (The Hill

5. Pharma pumps up stocks with corporate tax break cash

A new report by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says billions in tax cuts have been used to fatten pharma shares, not lower prescription drug prices. Womp womp. — (Report)

Heads up: 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter Friday calling for a federal investigation into “pay for delay” deals of biosimilar drugs. Bipartisan ❤️ for lower drug prices.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Are “massive” drug price cuts around the corner? Novartis raises drug prices. And the CREATES Act jumps a key hurdle.

Welcome to the week in review in prescription drug prices.

1. Negotiating price cuts?

Pharma CEOs coughed on their Champagne when President Donald Trump said that major drugmakers would announce “massive” drug price cuts in mid-June. HHS officials have been making calls and meeting with pharma to push for price cuts. The government negotiating with drug companies is a good thing. Time for Medicare to do the same. — (The Hill) 

2. Eli Lilly CEO says patients are “suffering”

If only he was the CEO of a major drug company who could do something about it. — (MSNBC)

3. Novartis raises the roof drug prices

Drug giant Novartis raised the prices of four drugs: Promacta, Mekinist, Tafinlar and Kisqali. If you’re keeping track, Novartis previous raised the price of Promacta in January.— (Politico

4. CREATES jumps a key hurdle

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15-6 to move forward the CREATES Act, a bill to police abuses by brand-name drugmakers that stall generics from hitting the market. The forward movement marked a small and rare victory for patients from the nation’s capital. Kudos to Chairman Grassley and Senator Leahy for their leadership. — (STAT

5. This is not what we meant by transparency in drug pricing

BIO conference guests are partying with topless dancers while everyday Americans can’t afford their prescription drugs. So there’s that. — (Washington Examiner)

Have a great weekend!


Statement on CREATES Act Passing Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW applauded and thanked the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing the bipartisan CREATES Act — a bill that aims to lower drug prices by speeding generics to market. In response to the committee voting 16 to 5 to move the bill for consideration by the full Senate, Executive Director Ben Wakana issued the following statement:

“Months of intense opposition from Big Pharma could not kill this bill, and nothing will stop patients from demanding solutions like the CREATES Act to lower drug prices. Chairman Grassley, Senator Leahy, and all committee members voting yes deserve credit for fighting for patients today. Drug corporations should stop safeguarding bad actors and instead focus on getting affordable medicine to Americans who need it.”


  • The CREATES Act (S. 974 and H.R. 2212) would stop big drug companies from blocking competition by refusing to allow their brand name drugs to be used in testing needed to get approval for generic competitors. If passed, patients would get access to lower-priced generic drugs faster.
  • Eighty six organizations representing patients, doctors, the research and development community, and large employers sent letters urging Congress to pass the CREATES Act.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated the CREATES Act would save taxpayers $3.8 billion over ten years.
  • In May, the FDA released a list of more than 50 drug makers accused by generic drug corporations of stalling providing samples that would increase competition and lower prices. According to Kaiser Health News, the drug makers on the FDA’s list are also responsible for double-digit percentage price hikes since 2012, which cost Medicare and Medicaid nearly $12 billion in 2016.
  • The pharmaceutical lobby amped up lobbying to $25 million last year and continues to oppose the CREATES Act despite calls from Scott Gottlieb, conservative groups like FreedomWorks, and Harvard academics to end REMS abuses.

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Drug prices crush seniors with rationed pill stashes. Sen. Claire McCaskill sends the Sunshine Act to CrossFit classes. And dry eye patent rental gives judges whiplash.

Welcome to the week in review in prescription drug prices!

1. Skimping not saving

Seniors aren’t filling prescriptions as often, and they’re being crushed by drug prices nonetheless. — (Associated Press)

2. Will the Sunshine Act hit the gym?

Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to strengthen the Sunshine Act. Now, a federal database launched in 2014 reports payments drug and device makers make to physicians. The lawmaker’s bill would additionally require drug makers to report payments made to patient advocacy groups and professional societies. Sounds good to us! — (STAT)

3. Resurrection

The CREATES Act is back from the dead—again, maybe. The long-stalled measure with wide bipartisan support would bring generic drugs to market faster and lower drug prices. Sadly, it’s being used in a weird, complex game of donut hole dodgeball. — (STAT)

4. Remember the time...

Remember that one time Allergan tried to skirt patent law by selling its patents on the dry eye drug Restasis to an American Indian tribe? In case you forgot, here’s where the case stands and a brief history of the company’s nefarious moves. — (Bloomberg)

5. Hike one, Hike two

Bayer Pharmaceutical just hiked the list prices of two cancer drugs more than $1,000 per month. It’s the second price increase for the two drugs in six months. Those private CEO flights and steak dinners don’t pay for themselves. — (Washington Post)

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Pharma drinks from both sides of the trough. The little-known trick Medicare beneficiaries can use to save cash. And a CVS insider blows the whistle on a major alleged rip-off.

Welcome to the week in review in prescription drug pricing!

1. Both sides of the trough

As taxpayers we all pay for research into new drugs at the National Institutes of Health. Then we all pay again when we buy the drugs. — (NYT

2. (Don’t) gag me

Medicare beneficiaries might score a better deal for prescriptions if they ask for the cash price — but they have to know to ask. — (NPR)

3. Doing just fine

Those health care CEOs. Just fine. — (AP)

4. Let Gottlieb be your guide

The commish furnishes guidance to make it easier for generics to enter the drug market. But we still need Congress to pass CREATES. — (FierceHealthcare

5. We will watch this suit carefully!

If CVS whistleblower claims are true, it explains why PBMs prefer secrecy.  — (WKYC3)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Ohio takes aim at gag clauses. A patient yells into the void. And the federal government doses shame. Welcome to the Week in Review in drug pricing! 

1. Ohio takes another step toward PBM transparency

In Ohio, a House committee recommended passage of HB 479, which would crack down on PBM opacity by banning “gag rules” that stop pharmacists from telling their customers about cheaper options for obtaining their medicines. And that’s a step in the right direction. — (The Columbus Dispatch

2. Shouting into the void

P4AD helped 40-year-old CF patient Lora Moser, who raised $750,000 to fund the research behind Orkambi, a drug she can no longer afford, tell the Vertex CEO what she thinks. Will he hear her? The effort follows the May 3 release of an Institute For Clinical and Economic Review analysis, which says Vertex's cystic fibrosis drugs are overpriced by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We at P4AD hope we can convince Vertex to lower the prices of its charity-funded drugs so patients like Lora never have to go without. — (Inside Health Policy)

3. Dose of shame

Would requiring prices in drug ads do any good? Is it legal? — (NYT

4. Called out

The FDA calls out drug makers delaying generics. Which is great… but there is this obvious legislative solution floating around that would be really easy to get behind, too, so... — (USA Today)

5. Cancer drug spending doubled in 5 years

And there’s no end in sight! — (NBC)

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

A stormy turn in the drug pricing world and a Rose Garden speech by the president that could have used more thorns.
Welcome to the Week in Review in Drug Pricing!
1. Novartis should have used $1.2 million to repay cancer patients’ debt instead of paying a Trump attorney for special access.

The pharmaceutical giant paid $1.2 million to a Trump attorney. Here’s a better idea: repay patients who take Gleevec, a Novartis drug that rose in price from $26,000 in 2001 to $140,000 in 2017, an increase of nearly 440 percent. “My out of pocket for that drug with Medicare Part D insurance has come to, so far, $60,000 and has cut deeply into my retirement money, which is incredibly devastating and scary...I’m going to be in the poor house a lot sooner than I thought,” patient advocate Joan Tramontano told us. Watch Joan talk about the impact of Novartis’ price hikes on her life. — (STAT)

 2. President Trump’s plans to lower drug prices don’t include direct Medicare negotiation

And that’s a shame, though there are positive steps toward transparency in the 50-point plan released Friday. — (AP

3. Will the Administration’s proposals make a difference for patients?

David Mitchell, a cancer patient, and the president of Patients For Affordable Drugs, weighed in on PBS NewsHour. “We got a bunch of singles and we got a couple of whiffs. There are some things in this set of proposals that will save money for some people, especially people on Medicare who are using very high-cost drugs. But the president promised that he would lower list prices. And if you look at the proposal, the shortest part is about lowering list prices, and we really have to get at list prices set by the drug companies if we’re going to drive down prices overall.” — (PBS NewsHour)

4. The impact of a 100,000 percent drug price hike on a small town

After the price of a prescription drug for infants experiencing seizures soared 100,000 percent, the mayor of an Illinois town went looking for answers.— (60 Minutes)

5. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them         
            We tend to agree. — (STAT)

Patient Group Applauds Passage of Maine Drug Pricing Bill

WASHINGTON, DC — Patients in Maine are celebrating the passage of a new law that would help Mainers understand why prescription drugs prices keep rising. Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW, a patient advocacy organization, applauded passage of the bill.
“My 5-year-old son, Dakota, needs insulin to live,” said Sabrina Burbeck, a single mom who lives in Old Town. "When drug corporations charge $200-a-vial for a drug invented in the 1920s, we should all worry and demand change. There is no justifiable reason that his insulin costs keep going up, and the fear of my son losing his life-saving medicine keeps me up at night.”

A bipartisan group of Maine state legislators passed LD 1406 in April. The legislation, which became law yesterday, allows the Maine Health Data Organization to gather information from drug corporations about their pricing practices and to report its findings to citizens in Maine.
Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW is a bipartisan advocacy organization focused exclusively on policies to lower drug prices. To maintain its independence, P4ADNOW does not accept funding  from organizations that profit from the development or distribution of prescription drugs.
For Maine patient interviews, contact Juliana Keeping.

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

In New York, a panel makes a play to lower the cost of a charity-funded Vertex drug. Big Pharma’s shirt buttons pop off after it gorges itself on prescription drug price increases. And there’s this great new way to treat cancer that’s so expensive, the system can’t figure out how to pay for it.  
Welcome to the Week in Review!
1. Not having it

In the first test of a new law designed to lower drug prices, a New York panel said NOPE to Vertex Pharmaceutical’s $272,000 price tag for Orkambi. The state is demanding a rebate on the high-priced cystic fibrosis drug. If negotiations on the rebate fail, New York will attempt to get an explanation into the drug price. — (STAT

2. Big Pharma’s Q1 profit haul soars, despite big talk on lowering drug prices

People are suffering as the industry makes its killing, despite big talk that prices will come down. — (Axios)

3. The million dollar cancer treatment no one knows how to pay for

And that’s a big problem for cancer patients who only want to stay alive. A lower list price would mean greater access. — (MSN)

4. The forever burden

A patient with Crohn’s describes the trifecta of taxes — on her emotions, her time and wallet — as she comes to terms with the fact she needs a med worth tens of  thousands of dollars a year, for life, to feel fully human. — (Philly Enquirer)  

5. Pro or con?

Patients rely on co-pay assistance, but so do pharmaceutical corporations, to extract maximum profits from patients, consumers and taxpayers, a cost we all bear. This deep dive is worth your time. — (USA Today

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. See you next week!

The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

Happy Sunday! Big Pharma pours more money into lobbying than ever before. Scrappy Illinois legislators have come out swinging with a bill to stop price gouging aptly named, PHARMABRO. The president is expected to talk about drug prices — but will list prices come down? And I know this isn’t technically a drug pricing item but can we PLEASE talk about the nurse anesthetist who came in second in the Boston Marathon?

1. PhRMA gets desperate

  • PhRMA, the drug industry’s no. 1 apologist, put $10 million big ones into lobbying in the first three months of 2018, more than EVER BEFORE. Stop fighting the sea change and start lowering drug prices, PhRMA! — (STAT

2. Trump to talk drug prices

  • In his State of the Union Address, President Trump promised “prices will come down.” That’s the metric on which Americans will judge next week’s announcement. Will the proposals by the Administration lower the list price of drugs? We’ll be watching. — (MarketWatch

3. Scrappin’ in Springfield

  • A state representative from Chicago is taking on Big Pharma with an anti-gouging bill, dubbed PHARMABRO. Will Guzzardi’s legislation just passed the House. It would would empower the Illinois attorney general’s office to investigate price increases in generic drugs above certain threshholds.  

4. A first-of-its-kind

  • Heads up. In New York, a drug utilization review board will meet April 26. It could recommend a supplemental rebate to lower the cost of the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Forget rebates. We think Vertex should just drop its price. Check out the preview. — (STAT)          

5. It’s a crime in our books

  • When science hinted cancer patients could take less of a $148,000-a-year drug, its maker tripled the price. Now that’s what they call pharmaceutical innovation. — (The Washington Post) 

6.  I know this isn’t a drug pricing story...but...

  • We can’t let the week go by without giving props to the nurse anesthetist who nabbed second place in the Boston Marathon. I bet she’s into lower drug prices. — (The Boston Globe)

National Patient Group Announces First Endorsement in Campaign to Lower Drug Prices

New patient group planning to spend six figures in WV; David McKinley earns support thanks to his work to speed generic drugs and lower prices for patients

WASHINGTON, DC — Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW, a bipartisan national patient organization focused on policies to lower drug prices, announced its first endorsement of the election year will go to Republican Congressman David McKinley (WV-01). McKinley earned the support of patients thanks to his leadership on legislation that would lower drug prices, his independence from Big Pharma, and his work to protect rural hospitals from paying more for prescriptions for low-income West Virginians.
“David McKinley has consistently been on the right side of legislation to lower drug prices, including introducing a key bill aimed at speeding cheaper generics to market,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW. “The truth is, patients and consumers need David McKinley because he’s working to bring cheaper drugs to market that will help West Virginia families and all Americans save money. We are proud to give him our support and look forward to working for his re-election this November.”
In 2017, Rep. David McKinley co-introduced the FAST Generics Act, a bipartisan bill that would prevent brand drug corporations from gaming our system and blocking cheaper generic drugs from coming to market. Unlike many members of Congress, he has taken very little in campaign donations from big brand drug companies. This congressional session McKinley also stood up to the drug lobby’s push to raise drug prices for rural hospitals by opposing harmful cuts to the 340B program.
Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW will spend six figures to educate, activate, and mobilize West Virginia voters in support of David McKinley’s reelection. The nation’s only independent patient group focused exclusively on lowering drug prices will support McKinley through direct voter engagement, organizing, and advertising around the issue of drug pricing.
Americans have consistently said that lowering prescription drug prices should be a top priority in Congress. Millions of Americans routinely choose not to fill prescriptions or skip doses to save money, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW aims to act as a counterbalance to the pharmaceutical political machine. Drug corporations spent $20 million in lobbying and donated $246 million to politicians in the last election cycle alone. P4ADNOW works across the country on a bipartisan basis to educate the public on policy issues and elevate stories of patients struggling under runaway drug costs.

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The Week in Review in Drug Pricing

A patient speaks in Connecticut. Big Pharma helps itself to the spoils of a tax windfall. And one drug company CEO makes a strong play to be the next Martin Shkreli.
1. A cancer patient speaks

  • In Connecticut, Greta Stifel told her lawmakers that her cancer medicines cost $22,000 a month. She’d like an explanation. — (NBC)

2. Profits over patients

  • Drug corporations are not using tax windfalls to help patients. They’re using them to buy back stock. Which is very cool unless you’re sick, a taxpayer, or a person with a conscience. — (USA Today)

3. Ohio takes aim at PBMs

  • PBMs operate in secret and the Buckeye State isn’t happy about it. — (Columbus Dispatch)

4. For cancer patients, less bang for their buck

  • As cancer drug prices climb, the value is not keeping pace. — (Reuters)

5. Gouger Alert! Vertex CEO took home $78.5 million in 2017

  •  Jeffrey Leiden won’t give children dying abroad access to charity-funded, life-extending cystic fibrosis medicines, but he will happily take home a $78.5 million salary package. — (Axios)

The Week In Review In Prescription Drug Pricing

The week in drug pricing has been marked with dormant dashboards, broken promises and bloated CEO salaries.

So, let’s get to it.

1. Dormant drug dashboards

  • HHS has not updated the databases that tell the public how much money the government is paying for drugs. The inaction follows repeated promises from President Trump that "one of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs.” — (CNN)

2. “We were forced to file for bankruptcy to afford my insulin.”

3. Piles of gold skimmed off the backs of the sick and dying.

  • Eye-popping CEO salaries that are, umm, not investments in R&D? — (Axios

4. Kickback schemes at Novartis?

  • The accusations flying are sick, and yet, not surprising. — (STAT)

5. The Vertex CEO said a few things he might regret.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. See you next week!

ICYMI: Trump admin keeping drug price info under wraps 

Sara Ganim // CNN // March 20, 2018


  • "They (drug companies) don't want taxpayers and Americans to know how they price their drugs because they don't price them fairly. In order to lower drug prices, people need this information," Slavitt said.


By Sara Ganim, CNN —The Department of Health and Human Services has not updated the databases that show the public how much money the government is paying for drugs, hospitals and physicians.

The database has been instrumental for researchers, journalists and non-profit groups who keep tabs on trends in drug prices and abuses by physicians, and was considered to be a step toward transparency and accountability for an industry that historically keeps its prices in the dark.

Although President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised "one of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs" because drug companies are "getting away with murder," critics say the dashboard's dormancy helps the drug industry avoid new scrutiny.

"Drug corporations are thrilled to have this tool be out of date," said Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, and a former HHS spokesman under President Barack Obama. "If this administration is serious about transparency and serious about holding drug companies accountable, they should update this tool tomorrow."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), which maintains the website, did not comment on the record for this story. A CMS spokesperson who asked not to be identified told CNN that the department is making "enhancements" to the database, but could not say when those began or when the data would be posted.

Niall Brennan, the former chief data officer for CMS who created the dashboard, said he created the program to make it very easy for the subsequent release of data in following years.

"The code is written," said Brennan, who is now the president and executive director of the Health Care Cost Institute. "This would be one of the first examples of them not updating one of the existing data sources."

The pharmaceutical industry opposed the database when it was created, arguing that it isn't a fair representation of drug prices, since the government isn't allowed to negotiate the cost of drug prices.

The database shows gross prices, not including rebates, meaning the costs reflected in the database may be higher than what someone with insurance would pay for their medicine. That's the main reason the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) says posting the data is a "misleading" representation.

When contacted for comment Monday, PhRMA sent CNN a statement from 2016, saying in part, "The dashboard focuses on a small subset of medicines and ignores the substantial market forces at work to hold down costs."

"The reason this tool is fair is because if you are a person who is uninsured, you are paying the list price in that database," Wakana said. "So to argue that some pay lower prices is completely unjustified. Hundreds of thousands of people each year are draining bank accounts to pay the prices in that database."

Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, who started the database, said the purpose of posting this data was to "create a bit of shame for those who increase prices continuously without doing anything to improve the drug."

"They (drug companies) don't want taxpayers and Americans to know how they price their drugs because they don't price them fairly. In order to lower drug prices, people need this information," Slavitt said, later adding, "I've heard transparency and cost reduction out of this administration a number of times, and this is probably the best example of this. So I don't know a good explanation of why this information isn't being kept up."

Under the Obama administration, the CMS dashboard was typically updated in November for the previous calendar year, but no new information has posted since Trump took office. Information going back to 2010 remains on the website.
Trump on Monday reiterated his desire to lower drug prices, in part blaming the drug lobby in a speech.

"If you compare our drug prices to other countries in the world, in some cases, it's many times higher for the exact same pill, or whatever it is, in the exact same package, made in the exact same plant. And we're going to change that," he said in a speech in New Hampshire.

"They're quite valuable files," said Jack Hoadley, a health policy analyst and political scientist at Georgetown University who testified recently before the Senate using the database, but had to use slightly outdated information since it hasn't been updated. He said he uses it "to just get a sense of what are the drugs that are getting the most spending, the highest price increases. I've seen some really good work, on exactly that point, flagging drugs that are showing a lot of price increase over the past few years, and that leads you to look deeper and ask what's going on."

Earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar -- a former Eli Lilly & Co executive -- who came to the administration with many drug industry ties -- gave a speech to the Federation of American Hospitals "encouraging transparency from providers and payers" and saying "providers and insurers have to become more transparent about their pricing."

In November, when Trump announced Azar as his nominee to lead HHS, he continued to emphasize his focus on drug prices, tweeting..., "he will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices."

He even highlighted it in his State of the Union address.

"Fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities," Trump said. "Prices will come down."

The Week in Review in Prescription Drug Pricing

Shkreli begs for minimum security. Pharma lobbies Congress to sweeten the donut hole. And the Catholic health community gets a call for help.

Welcome to the week in review in drug pricing!

1. How will Shkreli fare in prison? Jury’s out

  • Inmates weigh in. — (VICE)

2.  Congress is considering caving to pharma

  • Will it lower drug corporations’ costs in the donut hole or hold strong for patients? (Politico)

3. Drugmakers ‘derelict’ if they don’t tackle this issue: Waxman

4. Give patients a seat at the table

5. Heads are snappin’ at health care consolidations

  • But will these mergers help patients? Hmmm…— (L.A. Times)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. See you next week!