Letter to the Editor: Big Pharma, price gouging and the EpiPen

Photo composite | St. George News

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

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are presented as submitted with only light editing for news style and format. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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9 Comments

  • Real Life November 6, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    The pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of so many. A perfect example is our very own Dumpster. He is obviously under their control. Get some help Dumpster.

    • .... November 6, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      I agree with your comment 100% you need to get some help !

      • Real Life November 7, 2016 at 7:18 am

        Are you completely out of material, or have the pills really made you this stupid?

        • .... November 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

          1agree with your comment 100% the pills really have made you this stupid ! you said it !

          • Real Life November 7, 2016 at 4:36 pm

            You are so desperate right now.

  • Christine November 7, 2016 at 7:30 am

    There is an easy solution to this. Ban companies who depend on legislation from contributing to them. Obvious.

    • BIG GUY November 7, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Not obvious at all. Congress, its staff and regulators have no way to educate themselves on highly complex topics. They seek out and rely on inputs from business to understand complexities across the entire economy. While business input is vital, Congress and regulators also receive input that is intended to benefit a particular company or industry to the detriment of competitors or the public. Their challenge is to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly, a difficult thing to do.

      Allow me to make an imperfect analogy. All of us are bombarded continually with advertising. We learn of new products and services that offer significant benefits but we also get competing claims and exaggerated promises. We have to distinguish as best we can and make choices. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes wrong. C’est la vie.

  • BIG GUY November 7, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Mylan’s price increases are inexcusable and I do not defend the pharmaceutical industry carte blanche. But Mr. Polad’s criticism of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is misleading and unfair. The “sales in[?] marketing” expenses to which he refers are sales, marketing and administrative expenses including all the management overhead in any large company: computer ops, facility ops and maintenance, human resources, legal, accounting, packaging and shipping, etc. Further, J&J has a large consumer products business including Tylenol, Motrin, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Benadryl, Listerine and a variety of baby care products. J&J doesn’t break out its sales and marketing expenses by product line, but you can bet a large share goes to consumer products. Mr. Polad states that these fund are spent selling directly to doctors, clearly not true.

    The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most heavily regulated in our economy yet the clinical and public health aspects of its products are only dimly understood by those of us outside the industry. This is especially true of Congress, the source of regulatory authority. It is natural for the industry to do its best to educate Congress…and to influence Congress to its own advantage. The public relies on Congress to distinguish between the two intertwined industry objectives.

    “Lies, damned lies and statistics,” Mark Twain said. Mr. Polad needs be more careful with his “statistics.”

  • MadasHeck November 7, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    The problem with high drug prices is very much a matter of a ridiculously cozy relationship between big drug companies and our legislators and bureaucrats. Big Pharma pays bucks to our legislators and bureaucrats to make sure that laws and regulations keep competitors out of the market. Without competitors, the prices can go anywhere because no other companies are allowed to offer competitive pricing. Price wars are the key to bringing prices down. In our current atmosphere of heavy-handed government and crony capitalism that will not happen. There is just too much corruption.

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