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!

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!

The Week in Review in Prescription Drug Pricing

Insulin in a vial
Infusing money
Into CEOs’ pockets

Welcome to the week in review in haiku in prescription drug pricing!

1. The CEO of Eli Lilly made $9 million last year

  • Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW has heard from patients skipping groceries to afford insulin. But the CEO of this insulin maker is doing swell! Great job, CEO David Ricks, said no person living with diabetes, ever. — (Axios)

2. The Commish Gets Real

  • FDA Commish Scott Gottlieb has called out drug pricing ‘shenanigans.’ Now at the leading insurance industry trade conference, he’s gone and called out the entire health care industry for its elaborate and deceptive “Kabuki drug-pricing constructs.” With apologies to the 400-year-old art form, we agree with the Commish, that “obscure profit taking across the supply chain drives up costs and discourages competition.” Keep it up, Mr. Gottlieb.You’re so much better than Goodell. — (Reuters)

3. Paul Ryan gets another visitor

  • After Wisconsin resident Jackie Trapp met with the Speaker’s office last month, on March 6, U.S. Sen Tom Marino appeared on FreedomWorks Facebook page to pump up the free-market-friendly, obviously-needs-to-pass, low-hanging fruit that is the CREATES Act. Now, he met with Paul Ryan. Lawmakers, CREATES will save taxpayers $3.8 billion. The omnibus is on the horizon.  Hmmmm…. — (The Hill)

4. Here comes the sun

  • U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to shine light on pharma payments to nonprofits. Those industry entanglements are gonna burn bright. — (STAT)

5. Merger-Gate

  • If Cigna buys Express Scripts and the CVS-Aetna merger moves forward, the firms combined would cover nearly half of stand-alone drug enrollees. Will they promise to lower drug prices and be transparent? Or is this all about shareholder returns? — (KFF)

Can I tell you a story?

My name is Pam Holt. I’m 68 years old, a mom, a grandmother, and a retired first and second grade teacher. I’ve traveled from my home in Indiana to Washington, DC this week.

Before I tell you why, and what I hope to do, I want to tell you what led me here.

In 2012, I received news that altered the course of my life, news no one wants to hear.

I had cancer. The low-boil, slow-moving, incurable sort. In a strange way, I felt lucky. I accepted the diagnosis — why fight it — and continued to make the most of life. The cancer is called multiple myeloma. My doctor recommended I started taking a drug called Revlimid to keep it at bay.  

I started taking the drug, but the price kept rising — three times in the last year alone. Today I pay $640 per month, even though I have both Medicare and a supplement plan that I pay for.

I had to take on $10,000 in debt to pay for Revlimid.

I had to take on $10,000 in debt to pay for Revlimid. But, I told myself, the company needed this money for research.

Or so the story goes.

I was wrong.


One day a few months back, sitting at my kitchen table, checking the news on my phone, I caught an article posted by Patients For Affordable Drugs.

Celgene, the company that makes Revlimid, should be giving samples to generic drugmakers so they can make a cheaper version, but it repeatedly refused to do so. Celgene is abusing a loophole in our laws to keep the price high.

The company keeps raising the price simply because it can. And, I keep taking on debt.

I’m even refinancing my home this year.

It’s plain wrong

The 6 and 7-year-old children I taught would know better.

But we can do something about it.

Sign up for a patient advocacy webinar. It gives patients like us tools to elevate our voices, contact our lawmakers, and expose big pharma’s lies.

If you have it in you to do something like this with the help of Patients For Affordable Drugs, I’m here to tell you that you can.

Because I just did.

— Pam Holt


Today, we're cheering for patient advocate Pam Holt

Patient advocate Pam Holt traveled from Granger, IN to Washington, DC today. She’s in the nation’s capital to fight for patients and lower drug prices.

The retired teacher and grandmother has multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

Pam pays an exorbitant amount each month for a drug called Revlimid. She has taken on $10,000 in debt to stay alive and afford her prescriptions since her 2012 diagnosis. She is about to refinance her home to continue to afford her medicine. And, because of her retirement income from teaching, she doesn't qualify for financial assistance.

To make matters worse, the drug’s manufacturer, Celgene, is playing games to stave off  competitors by refusing to provide samples of its drug to generic drugmakers.


The price of Revlimid keeps rising with no limit. That means two things. First, Pam is on the hook for the cost of her overpriced brand-name drug. Second, Celgene’s abusive practices also undermine free-market forces that would speed generic competition and lower drug prices

We wish hers was an isolated case — but it isn't. Stories like Pam's are widespread, and patients across the country are on the hook for thousands of dollars for brand-name prescription drugs.

That's why Pam is in Washington, fighting for passage of the CREATES Act. It would close this loophole, bring Pam relief, and restore competition to lower drug prices.

She has meetings scheduled with her federal lawmakers today, including U.S. Sen. Todd Young, U.S Rep Jackie Wolorski, and members of the Administration.

We are rooting for you, Pam. Fingers crossed your elected officials hear you and decide to help.

Learn more about Pam Holt and the CREATES Act by watching the below CBS Morning report.

The time is now in Oregon

Oregon’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, HB 4005, is moving forward. It’s headed to a key committee vote this morning.

Oregon residents: It’s more important than ever that you tell your lawmakers to pass the transparency bill right now. 

Can you spare two minutes and send a letter to your state lawmakers?

Pharma is using dirty tactics to fight HB4005. It makes me furious. Help us keep the momentum up and tell Oregon legislators to stand with patients.

Can I count on you?

Thanks for your support,

Ben Wakana,

Executive Director,
Patients For Affordable Drug NOW

Maryland patients: Here is an action you can take to lower drug prices TODAY

Prescription drug prices are out of control.

But the Maryland legislature has a chance to change that. Your state representatives are considering two important bills. Senate Bill 1023 and House Bill 1194 would enable the state to hold the line on prices we are willing to pay for drugs.

But we don’t have much time—so we need to act now.

Send a letter to your Maryland state representatives TODAY urging them to pass both bills.

As a Maryland resident and cancer patient, I've heard from other Marylanders who are making difficult sacrifices just to afford their life-saving drugs. Let's put a stop to that.

Tell your state representatives you want them to stop Big Pharma's price gouging.

David Mitchell,
Founder, Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW


Meet Washington patient Carolyn Wilson

Carolyn Wilson is 72 and a retired radiology instructor from Vancouver, Washington who lives with diabetes. 

Carolyn has gone an entire month without insulin because she can’t afford it. She's even considered purchasing cat food to eat as a way to get protein and afford her prescription.

Drug corporations want to keep patients like Carolyn in the dark as prescription drug costs continue to rise.

Bad news for drug corporations. Carolyn is fighting back.

On Monday in Olympia, she raised her voice, testifying in favor of a bill called HB1541. It would force drug corporations to explain exorbitant price hikes to Washingtonians like her.  

Watch Carolyn’s testimony here:

Stand with Carolyn. Share her story and spread the word about HB1541 by sharing this post throughout your social media channels.

-The team at Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW