Published January 12th, 2017 by Stephanie
In the last year or two, drug companies have been under the gun in the press, due to what many people, including congressional oversight committees, see as shameless price gouging, whereas that pharma industry will claim that the price hikes are justified. The controversy rages on, but whether price hikes on prescription drugs are warranted or not, the consumer ends up paying for it in the end.
One of the cases that caused tremendous outrage back in the fall of 2015 was that of Martin Shrkeli, at the time CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to an old drug, Daraprim, which was selling for $13.50 a pill, according to Forbes, and decided to jack the price up to $750. That is $750 for a single pill of a drug that was approved by the FDA back in 1953. The resulting outrage eventually led to Shrkeli having to resign and earned him the deserved nick name “bad boy of pharma.”
You would think that the torrent of bad press that dogged Shrkeli and Turing Pharmaceuticals over the Daraprim case would have made pharma CEOs cautious, but apparently not. No sooner had the Shrkeli case died down, when the Epipen story broke. Made by Mylan Inc., led by CEO Heather Bresch, the Epipen is a life-saving treatment for people, especially children, with life-threatening allergies. Patients are required to carry an Epipen at all times, and the pens have to be replaced once a year, come rain or shine. Mylan decided to raise the price from around $100 for a two-pack to $614, prompting general outrage as well as congressional hearings.
Pharmaceutical companies have put forward various explanations to justify these kinds of price hikes. Apart from citing high development costs (not applicable for either Daraprim or the Epipen, by the way), the companies refer to the free market and sometimes argue that the price increases won’t affect consumers, since insurance will pay for the hike. But that really depends on your insurance company and your particular policy. Even if the drug maker is forced to back down eventually, many patients could get caught, since they can’t just stop buying their medicine, while they wait for the price to be reduced. One thing you can do to protect your wallet from sudden price hikes and inflated drug prices is to sign up for a USA Rx pharmacy discount card. It is free and easy, and can save you up to 75% on prescription drugs.