The following editorial is from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Another runaway drug-pricing problem is putting an easy-to-use version of naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, out of reach for most drug addicts, their families and first responders. The cost of an auto-inject version of the drug, specifically approved for people without medical training to use in life-threatening situations, has increased more than 500 percent to $4,500 since 2014.
The wholesale price of insulin, a life-saving drug for some 1.25 million Americans who suffer from Type 1 diabetes, increased from $45 for a highly concentrated monthly form in 2001, to $1,447 last year. This is life and death for patients whose pancreases can’t make insulin.
Older drugs and some medications that are particularly effective are becoming more expensive over time with competition failing to hold down prices. People are being deprived of desperately needed treatments because pharmaceutical companies are price-gouging, and Congress has failed to regulate them.
President Donald Trump has accused the pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder” because of the high pricing and vowed to tackle the issue himself a few weeks ago. We hope he keeps his promise. There is no justification for pricing common drugs so high that people will die because they can’t afford them.
Companies with virtual monopolies set grossly inflated prices for drugs they know others can’t provide, or make tiny improvements that generate new patents and greater profits. Medical experts say some insulin changes have been substantial, but others are simply a strategy to keep prices high.
Trump told pharmaceutical executives last week that he would slash Food and Drug Administration regulations to make it easier for them to manufacture products in the United States, and nominate an FDA commissioner who will streamline the agency’s drug approval process. The companies have blamed regulatory delay for high prices; in a few cases, that may be true. But greed is a bigger factor.
Patients need help. But cheaper drugs should not come at the cost of shredding FDA regulations that keep dangerous drugs off the market.
Trump stepped back from a threat to use the Medicare program’s enormous buying power to drive down prices, something drug companies dread. If prices don’t come down, and quickly, Trump should back up his tough talk with action.
Manufacturers blame high prices for new drugs on research and development costs. Price hikes for older drugs often are blamed on manufacturing and packaging costs, wholesalers and insurance companies. The numbers don’t add up.
Consider Kaleo, the maker of Evzio, the auto-inject version of naloxone. It says it raised prices to cover patient co-pays. The product went from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 today. Co-pays didn’t go up $3,810. Covering patient co-pays sounds morally defensible. An addiction to profits is more difficult to justify.
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