OPINION — The House Oversight Committee held a congressional hearing on Sept. 21 where Mylan Executives has to answer questions about a 600 percent price increase over lifesaving EpiPens. Since 2008, EpiPens have increased in price from about $100 to about $600. This was a much needed investigation into why Mylan feels like their profit interests are more important than people’s lives.
This event has sparked well-deserved outrage among Democrats and Republicans.
Democratic challenger in Utah’s 2nd Congressional district, Charlene Albarran, commented: “The pharmaceuticals industry is unique because it plays with people’s lives. Besides putting a lid of advertising, lobbying, campaign contributions, and donations to doctors. We must also put harsher penalties on wrongly promoting drugs. We must also open the borders with Canada and Europe to break up the industry monopoly.”
The House Oversight Committee released a joint statement responding to Mylan’s attempt at price gouging. Something we all realize is that we shouldn’t play around with people’s lives for money. Well, all of us except for the pharmaceutical industry and perhaps politicians who receive their generous gifts.
The pharmaceutical industry has been gaining a reputation for price gouging American consumers and even the United States government. We have to start asking ourselves why we are letting this happen. We know exactly what the problem is, yet nothing is done about it. Why is public opinion not enough.
Big Pharma spends the most out of any industry in the United States on lobbying. Over the last 18 years, Pharma has spent close to $3.4 billion on lobbying to persuade members of congress to vote in their favor. During that same time, they have also made $133 million on contributions to PACs (political action committees). It is naive to think Pharma invests in lobbying and campaign contributions without expecting something in return from those they donate to.
In return, Pharma has received generous gifts from the federal government at the expense of the American taxpayers. Medicare pays much more for prescription drugs than other similar developed countries. Medicaid and the VA also pay more than developed countries, but even if Medicare paid the same price as Medicaid and the VA, the federal government would save about $15-16 billion per year. It’s an excellent investment for Pharma to spend about $3.5 billion dollars to receive $15-16 billion per year in gifts. It might be the most profitable investment they make.
Pharma argues that the high cost of their products come from the high cost of research and development. This argument is misleading at best and an outright lie at the worst. While it does take a significant investment to research and develop drugs, Pharma spends much more on advertising. The two largest pharmaceutical firms in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, spent a combined $28.9 billion on sales in marketing compared to just $14.8 billion on research and development. Most of the sales and marketing budget is focused on marketing directly to doctors, it is concerning that doctors are twice as likely to prescribe drugs if they are receiving payments from the pharmaceutical industry.
This problem must be addressed. American Consumers are unfortunately not in total control of the situation.
A boycott won’t work because many are depending on the drugs to survive, myself being one of them.
Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with CML leukemia and treated with a drug that sold for $3,000 a month. That drug today sells here in a local pharmacy for $12,471. Luckily I am a veteran and can get my drugs through the VA.
This is a problem that must be addressed by our legislators. What can we do as voters, is examine the candidates we have to choose from this year, and find out if they are taking money from Big Pharma. If they are, it is unlikely they will be the ones to finally resolve this issue.
Submitted by Del Polad, St. George
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- Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – “Chaffetz, Cummings Request Further Details on EpiPen Profits” – Oct. 3
- Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – “Reviewing the Rising Price of EpiPens” – Sept. 21 Hearing