Why Are Medications So Expensive?
It’s easy to blame greedy corporations for the price of medications. Some people think pharmaceutical companies create diseases, just to sell the cure to the public. Other people believe drug companies gouge consumers just to make as much money as they can. And others, like Lefty, think modern pharmaceuticals are magically produced by the Obama Fairy, who makes everything better.
Here’s the truth: Government makes medications expensive. I can hear every liberal in the nation groaning and can see them rolling their eyes. But it doesn’t change facts.
Fact 1: It costs a pharmaceutical company $1,000,000,000 to bring a single drug to market. A BILLION dollars. For one drug. Most of that money goes to the FDA in a weird tithing structure that people at the FDA call research, and the rest of common sense humanity calls a robbery. The studies demanded are not clinically relevant. The tests and studies compare the medications to placebos, which are sugar pills, and if the drug is better than nothing, then they get approved. A billion dollars for that Mickey Mouse junk science. And that billion doesn’t include the other drugs that didn’t get FDA approval, or the company doesn’t want to take through the process because the market is small. And since the FDA determines which drugs reach the open market, and its a government monopoly, with the government’s ability to use force to enforce its regulations, the government just got a cool $BILLION with its regulations. That billion has to come from somewhere in order for the company to remain in business, trying to innovate new treatments for old diseases.
Fact 2: The average patent life, once on the market, of a medication in the US is 6-7 years. The pharmaceutical company must file the patent when they submit to the FDA overlords, and the clock starts running on the patent from the time they file. FDA approval takes an average of 13 years. By the time the pharmaceutical company gets a chance to make any of their money back, they have lost 2/3 of their opportunity. Who controls the regulations governing patents? You guessed it, the government. If you simply extended the time that the patent life started running to when it was approved by the FDA, you could reduce the cost of every new drug by 2/3. Why doesn’t the government do this simple thing?
Fact 3: This is a dirty secret of the health care industry. Pharmacies can charge whatever mark up they want for the drugs they dispense. Some pharmacies are cheaper, others more expensive. Just call around and ask how much Zoloft is at three different pharmacies. They will give you different numbers. And if you don’t think a couple bucks more at Walgreen’s makes a difference, multiply that couple of bucks by $4 billion, and you are talking real money. And of course, it’s more than a couple of bucks difference between pharmacies for different medications. Government regulates how much doctors get paid, why not pharmacies?
Fact 4: Lawyers suck, and not just because they are lawyers. Have you seen the commercials for James Sokolove, JD? Or any of the other multitudes of ambulance chasing blood suckers on TV extorting money out of drug companies and doctors? What these lawyers do is file a lcass action lawsuit against EVERY SINGLE DRUG produced, listing side effects to the medications that are known to the FDA and disclosed by the pharmaceutical manufacturers to the public and doctors, hoping that they will get a giant settlement. It is so lucrative for them that a single firm makes $50,000,000 per year, has 80 affiliates, and 300 employees. It’s big business suing drug companies for side effects the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, and your doctor already know and disclose. But it doesn’t stop them. Every suit drives up the cost of medications. And you pay for it. Lawyers say they provide protection for consumers, and they are angels and only have your good at heart. But they don’t. Not at $50,000,000 a year for just one outfit. And there are thousands of personal injury attorneys doing exactly the same thing. How can the Lawyers get away with robbery like this? Government regulations that encourage suits. Lawyers are the biggest contributor to PAC’s in the nation. So again, we come back to government adding to the costs of medications.
Fact 5: Here’s where the pharmaceutical companies are to blame: Direct to consumer advertising. It drives sales. Period. It drives prescribing. Period. And advertising expenses for PHarmaceutical companies are growing at a phenomenal rate. How did this come about? The government said it was immoral to have a pharmaceutical sales representative come to my office and give me lunch, and it was awful that they drug companies would help support doctor’s continuing medical education, something required by the government and great expense to physicians. So Big Pharma agreed, and started direct to consumer advertising. It’s much easier for me, as a physician, to tell a sales rep “NO!”, than it is for me to tell my patient, “NO!”. My patients come in to me, say, “I’m a little down today. Could you give me Abilify?” I explain to them what the side effects are, (many and awful, by the way) and then my patient will say, “But it will help me!” What’s a doctor to do? Give the med and risk the Sokolove Gauntlet, or refuse and risk losing rapport with my patient? So again, it’s government creating more expenses for medications.
If you want to reduce drug costs, extend patent life to 20 years, bring lawyers under control through tort reform, streamline the FDA approval process and make the studies clinically relevant, and control pharmacy gouging. With these simple steps, the government could actually help reduce medication costs to the consumer. But knowing government the way I do, I doubt they will do anything that makes sense.