As you may know, prescription prices pay a huge role in my budget and that’s a very important issue for me. Over the past two months, I participated in two separate important events that involve the prescription drug crisis in America. Today, I’d like to tell you about them.
The first event was a panel discussion group that was put together by a legal firm to discuss a lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers against a major drug company. We discussed a company that is alleged to have paid off and conspired with a competitor to deter and delay the release of a generic version of one of their drugs and thus reaped millions of dollars because of it. (A confidentiality agreement won’t allow me to disclose the names of these two companies here right now.)
The second event was my participation with other prescription drug users and AARP to discuss and help in their national campaign to “Stop Rx Greed”!
Both of these events were educational, invigorating, and really important. I want to share some of the details with you today. Even if you are not one who currently depends on prescription meds to survive right now, you just don’t know what might happen in your future. That’s why you need to pay attention to this post.
Prescription Greed Is Very Real
You have heard lots of talk about it on TV and radio. Prescription drug prices are seriously outpacing inflation rates in America and literally wreaking havoc with people paying for prescription drugs. I know because my wife and I are two of those people.
Two big questions you just have to ask yourself are “Why are prescription drugs so expensive?” and “Why does anyone have to lay out thousands of dollars a year for them?”
Now there are some people out there that might say things like “Well, you should have taken better care of yourself” or “Why didn’t you plan your funds better to be able to pay for any health needs you would have in your old age?” Yes, there are always those who are either very lucky, work hard at being really healthy, or maybe just have the best genes and are not pre-disposed to any of this stuff. Or, is it that they just haven’t gotten to that serious health tipping point quite yet requiring all those prescriptions? They are fortunate, but you can’t depend on always being lucky, can you?
But none of that answers the questions or changes the reality of what is happening with the prescription madness that so many people have to deal with every day.
Where the Money Really Goes
Just to mention a couple a real pet peeves of mine when it comes to drug companies and what they do, what about the ridiculously overpaid and often pushy drug salespeople who are forever present, pushing their brand name products in your doctor’s offices every day of the year? These folks, while doing nothing illegal, are highly overpaid and that has to be a factor in the pricing of any product.
Let me not forget about the drug company advertising that you see constantly with the “ask your doctor” tagline. It is always accompanied by the fast talking disclaimers about all of the potential side effects that every drug seems to have!
The advertising budget for drug companies is in the multi billions of dollars every year and 9 out of 10 of the major drug companies have been spending more on marketing to doctors than they do for research and development since 2012!
There is no good reason why Americans are forced to pay the highest drug prices in the world!
Drug companies may insist that high drug costs are a result of the high cost of research and development and the years it takes to develop new drugs. But that doesn’t explain why the same drugs selling elsewhere, like in Canada, are much cheaper than that here in the U.S. It’s time for real transparency behind the dramatic increases on the prescription drug costs now.
A Brief Overview of a Worst Case Offender
When I sat in on the discussion of alleged illegal conspiracy claims about two drug companies who kept a generic drug off the market for years so that one company could continue to reap huge profits and monopolize that treatment, I already knew that this wasn’t a one-off situation. It has happened dozens and dozens of times before and will continue as long as no penalties are assessed or our government fails to intervene and put some kind of stop to it besides weak investigation and idle threats to enforce the law.
In the particular case I was discussing, a class action suit has been filed on behalf of thousands of Americans who bought medication that could have been offered as a generic (for less than half the price) had an illegal payoff and agreement allegedly made by two very greedy well-known companies not been done.
The money paid off was a huge amount, more than the generic maker would have profited from in many years, but only a very small amount compared to the profits made by the giant pharma company that paid the money to them. Give a little and get a lot was the deal there.
Another Bad Example
Unfortunately, I already knew from my own experience that these kinds of deals have happened before over and over. One personal case involved my own daughter. When my daughter was diagnosed with a major hearing loss as an infant, we began to shop for a prescribed set of hearing aids for her. Of course we wanted the best available state-of-the-art aids we could find at that time, and did our homework to find out who had the best ones out there.
We actually discovered a very small company in California that had developed something brand new that was perfect for her specific needs of range loss and contacted them directly to find out their cost and when they might be available for her. What we found out was pretty shocking.
First, we found out that our insurance wouldn’t cover these aids right away because they were so new that they needed approval by the government before they could be sold to the public. Second, we learned shortly after that development, a huge hearing aid manufacturer was purchasing the rights and patents to these aids, but for a not-so-good purpose.
This very large company was willing to pay hundreds of millions to get those rights because they wanted to prevent the smaller company from producing these aids and competing with them in the marketplace! By buying the rights they could continue to use the older technology and control the marketplace until they could begin manufacturing the new ones on their own time schedule, years further down the road.
This action resulted in delaying the technology (and hindering my daughter’s and possibly thousands of others’ development) and continuing the sale of very expensive aids that were not the best ones that could have been obtained for her and thousands of others. While this event occurred over 30 years ago, it has been repeated over and over again in corporate board rooms because profits and greed are the major concerns. It seems that patient wellbeing is not always the number one concern and isn’t that just ridiculous?
The AARP “Stop Rx Greed” Campaign
This year, AARP is working diligently to try to stop the problems in the prescription drug world. You hear about the problems almost every day if you watch the news and listen to the debate among the principals seeking the nomination for president of the U.S. You hear the statements about prescription prices and the greedy practices in the medical world and that is all essentially true.
Here are just some of the facts and statements that AARP wants to hit home on right now:
- In the past decade the average price of prescription drugs has tripled!
- The average Medicare recipient takes 4.5 prescription drugs a month.
- Drug companies set their own prices and drive the cost of medications up by spending tens of billions on advertising and congressional lobbying!
You may have heard some of the horror stories about people paying unbelievable prices for drugs, even when they have Medicare and/or private medical insurance for their drugs. I myself have paid hundreds of dollars for a single 30-day prescription of basic meds for my diabetes for years now. And items like Lantus insulin, for example, can cost an uninsured person over $5,000 a year (double what it was just five years ago).
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than a quarter of U.S. adults struggle to pay their medical bills. This includes folks who have insurance, whether independently or through an employer. In fact, medical debt is the number one source of personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S., and in 2014, an estimated 40% of Americans racked up debt resulting from a medical issue!
How My Wife and I Participated
Because we have seen the problems up close and personal (we have spent over $30,000 on prescription drug copays alone over the past five years), we volunteered to spend an afternoon telling our personal experience and story and being recorded by AARP for their national campaign to help change the laws about prescription drugs and their costs.
We both, along with several others, were filmed telling the details of what we have experienced and those videos will be used in the near future to help publicize and influence the public about this crisis.
AARP’s Campaign Goals
AARP has outlined three over-arching goals for their campaign.
- To bring more generic drug options to market while tightening their regulations.
- To enact policies that include banning the “pay-to-delay” tactics and creating a way for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare.
- To reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients and set a cap for Medicare Part D.
You can help, too.
Even if you are not experiencing any of the problems outlined here with prescription prices, you may have a family member or loved one who is, or even you yourself may someday. To read more about the campaign, check out AARP’s Stop Rx Greed site.
You don’t have to be an AARP member to let your representatives know that you feel now is the time to act! Your future “you” will thank you even if you might think that future you will never need your help!
How do you feel about prescription drug prices? Do you have any issue with prescription drugs and the rising costs? What will you do if healthcare costs and prescription drug costs drive you into financial difficulty or ruin?