The Hill: Who is to blame for skyrocketing drug prices?

By: Lynn R. Webster

Across the board, drug prices are soaring. Even the cost of cancer medications are so high that some patients are delaying cancer treatments or skipping them altogether. But who is most responsible for higher drug prices: pharmaceutical companies or pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)? That depends on whom you believe.

According to Bloomberg, “PBMs deny raising costs and say pharmaceutical companies seek to mask their own profiteering. ‘Drugmakers set prices, and we exist to bring those prices down,’ Tim Wentworth, Express Scripts’ chief executive officer, said on a Feb. 15 earnings call. Larry Merlo, head of CVS (which, itself, is a PBM), sounded a similar refrain six days earlier, ‘Any suggestion that PBMs are causing prices to rise is simply erroneous.’ ”

However, drug companies are blaming PBMs for skyrocketing prices, and so is at least one health insurer. In a recent case, Anthem Inc. sued Express Scripts Holding Co. for about 15 billion dollars. The lawsuit blames Express Scripts for the high pricing of drugs. Anthem alleges it’s “overpaying for pharmaceuticals and not benefiting from rebates the pharmacy benefit manager has negotiated with drugmakers.”

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Washington Post: Nevada’s insulin pricing transparency law is a model for the nation

By: Donald  “D.” Taylor, Las Vegas

I applaud the push to rein in insulin prices [“Lawmakers scrutinize cost of insulin,” news, June 23]. In Nevada, we are way ahead of Washington when it comes to sending a message to Big Pharma that enough is enough.

This month, the Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, signed a first-in-the-nation insulin pricing transparency law. The political power behind the law’s passage included an unprecedented coalition of big business, labor unions (led by Unite Here) and citizen advocates.

The new law requires manufacturers to report their costs for producing and marketing insulin and requires pharmaceutical sales representatives to report interactions with doctors, including whom they visited and what gifts they gave.

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Des Moines Register: Editorial: Being diabetic is becoming unaffordable

By: The Register’s editorial

Egyptian medical texts dated around 550 B.C. contain the earliest known descriptions of diabetes. Treatments for the disease throughout history included having patients drink their own urine, bleeding them, blistering them and administering opium to “reduce the despair” of impending death.

Diabetic children died within months of diagnosis. A few made it beyond one year. The discovery of insulin in 1921 changed everything.

Now the nearly 20,000 young Americans each year diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes have the chance to live long, productive lives. There is no way to prevent the autoimmune disease that destroys the body’s ability to produce insulin it needs to convert food to energy. There is no known cure.

Staying alive requires injecting insulin, sometimes several times a day.

That assumes people can afford it or have health insurance to help pay for it. Because the cost has tripled in recent years.

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Washington Post: Insulin is too expensive for many of my patients. It doesn’t have to be.

By: David M. Tridgell

At age 15, I suddenly felt an unquenchable thirst and began urinating frequently. I lost 20 pounds. I had developed Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroyed my body’s ability to produce insulin. Without insulin, I would have eventually developed a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which is lethal without (and even sometimes with) treatment.

Years later, I’m a practicing endocrinologist. I could never have imagined back when I first started taking insulin that one day I would have so many patients who could not afford the medication because of skyrocketing prices. When the drug was discovered in 1921, the original patent was sold to the University of Toronto for $1 so that no one else could patent it and “secure a profitable monopoly.”

Numerous improvements later, insulin is produced by a three-company oligopoly. When the first of the newer insulin “analogs,” Humalog, hit the market in 1996, it sold for $21 a vial. Today, vials of analog insulins, including Humalog, sell for about $300 . Patients with Type 1 diabetes typically require two or three vials of insulin per month, but patients who are more resistant to insulin, such as those with Type 2 diabetes, may require six or more.

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Los Angeles Times: How ‘price-cutting’ middlemen are making crucial drugs vastly more expensive

By: Michael Hiltzik

Diabetes doctor Irl B. Hirsch has watched with dismay as more of his Seattle-area patients take life-threatening steps to deal with the soaring price of insulin.

Some need two vials a week of the crucial medicine, at $300 per vial. Many pay full price because they’re uninsured or enrolled in health plans with high deductibles. So they’re cutting back. “It’s becoming very, very common to see patients intentionally withholding their insulin,” says Hirsch, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Washington.

He also knows where a good share of the blame lies: on pharmacy benefit management firms. “They’re middlemen we thought originally would make the distribution of medications easier, and more efficient, and even cheaper.” he says. “But now they want a cut of the money, and over the decades, they’ve wanted more.”

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Los Angeles Times: California bill would end ‘purely profit-driven’ practice of drug-company coupons

By: David Lazarus

When it comes to fixing the dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system, state Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) knows there are bigger fish to fry than drug-company discount coupons.

But as he told me: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Wood’s anti-coupon bill, AB 265, was approved by the Assembly last week. The legislation is now making its way through the state Senate.

It’s a tricky business, this bill, because what it would do is prohibit pharmaceutical companies from offering discounts to patients for name-brand drugs if there’s a cheaper generic available.

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Washington Post: Keeping my kids with diabetes alive costs thousands a year. Trumpcare terrifies me.

By: Jennifer Reilly

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, which would cut Medicaid considerably and allow insurance companies to charge people with preexisting conditions significantly more for coverage. As a mom of four kids — two with Type 1 diabetes, an unpreventable, incurable and expensive disease — I am terrified that this bill will put my children’s lives at risk if it becomes law.

I will never forget that day in 2012 when our doctor told me and my husband our 2-year-old son had diabetes. At first, we were frightened for his health and future. We knew that if the disease wasn’t managed correctly with the right diet, dosage of insulin and vigilant care, he could not only get very sick, not only potentially lose his sight or a limb — but he could die. We were devastated all over again when our almost-3-year-old daughter also was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes earlier this year. The medications, the insulin pumps and the glucose monitors our son and daughter rely on are necessities. Having them is literally a matter of life and death.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Opinion: Require drugmakers to report when they raise prices

By: Ed Hernandez and Tom Steyer

Big Pharma is everywhere.

Ads for the latest and greatest “lifestyle” drugs clog our magazines and spill out of our TVs. Every ailment is now a disease with a name and a medication to match.

The truth is, we can’t avoid Big Pharma because it’s the only game in town. Thanks to government-authorized monopoly protections, we have no choice but to pay whatever price Big Pharma charges, no matter how high.

But despite Big Pharma’s high profile, it still operates in the shadows, and the industry likes it that way. Companies such as Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk can jack up the prices of their signature drugs suddenly and with no justification.

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Concord Monitor: Sen. Maggie Hassan: It’s time to address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs

By: Sen. Maggie Hassan

In New Hampshire and across America, the rising costs of prescription drugs are forcing families to make agonizing decisions such as whether to put food on the table or fill a prescription that could improve – or even save – a life.

The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs has devastating impacts for people from all walks of life, and it is a major reason health insurance costs are rising for seniors, families and businesses. The New Hampshire Insurance Department estimated that Granite State patients and families spent more than $1 billion on prescription drugs in 2015.

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Missoulian: Diabetic will die without health care

By: Erin Johnson

I’m a Type 1 diabetic, and I was diagnosed at 13 years old. The types of insulin I use cost $600 a month. My parents helped me with medical needs until I decided to continue my education at the University of Montana, and I enrolled in the school’s insurance program.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can’t turn me away because of my “pre-existing condition.” After graduation last May, I had until August to find a different plan. I thought I’d get a full-time job, and it was going to be just fine. But it wasn’t.

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