More evidence was revealed this week that shows federal policymakers have their eyes on the wrong ball when it comes to health-care costs. According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report, costs to families getting their health coverage through large employers have increased 67 percent over the last decade, to $7,726 in 2018 from $4,617 in 2018. That study came just days after a UnitedHealth Group study said prices set by hospitals for services “are what’s driving up patients’ spending.” Between 2013 and 2017, for example, hospital prices rose 19 percent while the cost of physician services increased by 10 percent.
Meanwhile, since 2008, the amount of money Americans spent on prescription drugs only increased by 1 percentage point annually.
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TWEETS OF THE WEEK
- Facing a #drug shortage of their own, Canadians are fuming over the U.S.’ proposed #drugimportation plan. University of Ottawa prof. Amir Attaran did not mince words in @statnews when he called the idea “deplorable” and “atrociously unethical.”https://bit.ly/2Z1XH21 Click here to RT.
- #WednesdayWisdom: #PBMs “don’t innovate a whit of health care for anyone, so why is their revenue higher than GE, @Google, and @Verizon? What service do they provide to merit such largess?” asks CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics Paul Hastings via @statnews:https://bit.ly/2ymgdHl Click here to RT.
- As decorated Air Force vet Stacy Washington writes in the @newsheraldinoh, Trump’s price controls of #drugs will only threaten the existence of “#treatments that could potentially save [American] lives.” https://bit.ly/31E4Wib #DrugPrices #Patients Click here to RT.
THE STORIES THAT DIDN’T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION
Check out and share on Twitter our latest blog posts:
- Fact Checking David Mitchell. Patients for Affordable Drugs founder and President David Mitchell appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on August 12. While showing great empathy for the callers who dialed in with devastating stories of how the health-care system has failed them, Mitchell also engaged in a lot of hyperbole. In a new blog post, we attempt to tackle some of his most outrageous statements. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.
- ICER To Parents: “That’s Why You Don’t Have A Vote.” In case you missed it last week, STAT News recently went inside the Arnold-funded Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s drug value decision-making process. What they found was disturbing, to say the least. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.
- Drug Pricing Proposals Should Worry Patients Looking For A Cure. Whether it’s through stripping important #patents, imposing foreign reference pricing or placing arbitrary limits on drug prices, certain policy proposals threaten to smother innovation and reduce access to lifesaving care, leaving patients worse-off. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- There Is No Such Thing As A $6 Cure. Answering claims about the “low” cost of manufacturing drugs, Josh Bloom from the American Council on Science and Health came up with a brilliant way of explaining the price of a drug. He says, “First pills cost $2 billion to make, the second pill less than a buck. Material costs are rarely a significant contributor to final drug costs.” The cost is not on in the manufacture. The cost is in the discovery.
- New Hope To Treat “Most Fatal Infectious Disease In The World.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new medication for highly drug-resistant tuberculosis. As STAT News explains, “TB is the most fatal infectious disease in the world, and its drug-resistant forms affect some half a million people yearly.” The new medication is part of a three-drug regimen that patients can take over the course of six months. Axios has more.
- New Hope For Patients With Pancreatic Cancer. FierceBioTech reports, “Pancreatic cancer cells are especially good at repairing their DNA when it’s damaged by chemotherapy and radiation, which is one reason standard treatments for the disease are often ineffective. Now, researchers from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center are reporting promising results from an early trial of a drug that blocks an enzyme cancer cells need to repair their own DNA. The drug, AstraZeneca’s AZD1775, blocks an enzyme called Wee1 and in so doing prevents pancreatic cancer cells from shielding themselves against radiation and chemo.”
- Insurer Admits It’s Hospital Prices That Are The Problem. As STAT News reported in an e-newsletter this week, a report from UnitedHealth Group found hospital price increases could cost $250 billion over the next decade. The study found prices set by hospitals for services “are what’s driving up patients’ spending.” Between 2013 and 2017, for example, hospital prices rose 19% while the cost of physician services increased by 10%.
- Members Of The Trump Administration—Including The President—Once Opposed Drug Importation, Too. Citizens Against Government Waste reports, “In May 2018, Secretary Azar said that importing cheaper drugs from Canada was a ‘gimmick’ and that the Congressional Budget Office said it ‘would have no meaningful effect.’ President Trump remarked during his October 2018 announcement of the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement that, ‘We want our drugs to be made here … we don’t like getting them from foreign countries … we don’t know … how they’re being made.’”
- Cancer Patient, Who Also Is A Doctor, Opposes IPI. Writing in the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Dr. Will Thompson, who also suffers from prostate cancer, explains how International Pricing Index would harm patients: “The problem is that the countries that would be referenced in the model use a range of arbitrary techniques to artificially lower prices below market rates, often resulting in severe access restrictions for patients. For example, patients living in the countries referenced by HHS have, on average, access to only 55 percent of new cancer medicines, compared to access to 95 percent in the United States. They keep their costs low by not offering the latest and best drugs. They are rationing access to the newest drugs. For my patients and my own cancer treatment, I always want the best possible care.”
- There Are Ways To Reduce Drug Prices—But The IPI Isn’t One Of Them. According to Mercatus Center Senior Fellow Robert F. Graboyes, the most effective way to ensure drug affordability is to reduce the cost of developing the drugs. This can be achieved, Graboyes says, by reforming the Food and Drug Administration approval process. Using the International Pricing Index will just raise prices in other countries, Graboyes argues.
QUOTATION OF THE WEEK
Jim Greenwood, president and CEO, of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization:
“This abject vilification of companies dedicated to saving lives isn’t unique to Sanders. Other politicians have used similar overheated rhetoric, and the president of the United States has charged the industry with ‘getting away with murder.’ These vile descriptions, coupled with radical policy proposals, have become standard talking points, but they are not based in fact. My fear is that these attacks will have a serious long-term impact on the work being done to find new cures and treatments for some of the most devastating and debilitating diseases.”