Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Everyone Pays with Drug Price-Gouging

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Everyone Pays with Drug Price-Gouging

Article excerpt

It is unconscionable sometimes even deadly for pharmaceutical companies to jack up the costs of life-saving drugs just because they can.

But, absent meaningful reform of federal regulations, it's clear that some drug makers like Turing Pharmaceuticals, which boosted the price of a treatment for parasitic infections from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight will continue to put profits over patients' lives.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is leading the charge against such price-gouging. "We need to get to the bottom of why we're seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs," said Ms. McCaskill, announcing a bipartisan Senate investigation into drug pricing.

Ms. McCaskill is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which has subpoenaed documents from four pharmaceutical companies that have significantly increased prices on drugs in recent months. They have also asked for the CEO of Turing and other pharmaceutical companies to appear at a hearing on Dec. 9.

This scrutiny is absolutely necessary, some might even say critical. Pharmaceutical companies often justify outlandish prices by pointing to high research and development costs but Turing didn't invent Daraprim, the treatment for life-threatening parasitic infections so that point is moot in this case.

The company acquired the rights to sell the drug, and then immediately boosted the price. This is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. In fact, there is evidence that buying up the rights to old drugs and radically increasing their prices has become a favored business strategy.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals purchased the rights to two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, then promptly and dramatically raised the costs for both. Even some generic drugs are seeing enormous price hikes: coxycycline, an antibiotic that's been around for decades, went from $20 a bottle to $1,849.

Such unjustified increases can put needed medications out of the reach of some patients and can blow holes in state and federal health care budgets. Health insurance companies, not ordinarily the subject of much sympathy, also bear the brunt of this kind of price gouging, and you can bet they will pass a good chunk of the cost onto customers. …

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