Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Trump: New HHS Secretary Will "Get Those Prescription Prices Way Down." New HHS Secretary: "LOL!"

Trump: New HHS Secretary Will "Get Those Prescription Prices Way Down." New HHS Secretary: "LOL!" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

President Trump used the swearing-in of the new secretary of health and human services as an opportunity to decry high prescription drug prices and pledge to bring them down — an intention he has long trumpeted but on which he has yet to follow through.

“He’s going to get those prescription drug prices way down,” Trump said as he introduced Alex Azar at the White House Monday.

“Prescription drug prices is going to be one of the big things,” Trump said of Azar’s new job. “Whenever I speak to Alex, I speak to him about that, I think, prior to anything else. And I know you can do it. You know the system. And you can do it because it’s wrong.”

 

Further Reading:

  • “Public Citizen: Azar Would Be Detrimental to Americans’ Access to Health Care”; http://sco.lt/8kYVzl
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Pfizer raises average wholesale price of 148 drugs by 6-13.5 per cent, including Viagra, made in Cork Ireland!

Pfizer raises average wholesale price of 148 drugs by 6-13.5 per cent, including Viagra, made in Cork Ireland! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Pharma firms have imposed price rises of several times the rate of inflation on more than 1,000 products in the United States, a new year move that risks a political backlash at a time of intense scrutiny on healthcare costs.

 

Pfizer, the largest stand-alone pharmaceutical company in the US, raised the average wholesale price of 148 drugs by between 6 and 13.5 per cent, according to data, with a mean average increase of 8.8 per cent.

 

The list included several of its best-known medicines such as Viagra, the erectile dysfunction treatment made in Cork, and Lyrica for nerve pain.

 

Other large drugmakers, including Allergan, GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead, Shire, Biogen, Teva, Baxter and Viiv also increased the US list prices of their medicines on January 1st, according to the data.

 

For the most part, pharmaceutical companies held the increases at less than 10 per cent, but they still tracked well ahead of inflation, currently 2.2 per cent in the US.

 

Some pharmaceutical groups implemented much larger increases. Hikma, the London-listed drugmaker, raised the price of several strengths of morphine – which was first marketed in the 1800s – by between 75 and 90 per cent, taking a 25-pack of vials from $30 (€24.50) to $58 (€50).

 

Further Reading:

  • “A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year!”; http://sco.lt/65j0rp
  • “Celgene ‘Gets Away with Murder!’ Raises Prices Again and Again.”; http://sco.lt/7rguzx
  • “Mylan Execs ‘Untroubled’ by EpiPen Price Increases. Suggest Employees, Critics & Congress Go F**k Themselves”; http://sco.lt/8AhrKz
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Pharma's CEO's Are Beholding to Wall Street, Not Patients

Pharma's CEO's Are Beholding to Wall Street, Not Patients | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Now I [Rich Meyer, author of World of DTC Marketing blog] get that most pharma CEO’s earn a lot of money and cozy up to Wall Street but what about the rank and file under them? Do these people tell themselves the PhRMA lie about the “value” their drugs bring to society in order to cash their paychecks with a clear conscience?

 

With new cancer drugs commonly priced at $100,000 a year or more hundreds of thousands of cancer patients are delaying care, cutting their pills in half or skipping drug treatment entirely, a Kaiser Health News examination shows.

 

One-quarter of all cancer patients chose not to fill a prescription due to cost , according to a 2013 study in The Oncologist. And about 20 percent filled only part of a prescription or took less than the prescribed amount. Given that more than 1.6 million Americans are likely to be diagnosed with cancer this year, that suggests 168,000 to 405,000 ration their own prescription use.

 

It would be so easy for pharma CEO’s to hold a joint press event and inform the public that “under no circumstances should anyone enter financial consequences because of our drugs” but that would of course make the Street very unhappy.

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Why Do We Need Drug Rebates, Anyway? Good Question Senator!

Why Do We Need Drug Rebates, Anyway? Good Question Senator! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

resSen. Lamar Alexander has a question: why do we have drug rebates, anyway?

 

“Why do we need rebates?” the Tennessee Republican asked a panel of pharmaceutical industry representatives at a Senate committee hearing. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee met Tuesday morning for the second of three hearings on drug pricing, and heard testimony from five interest groups representing companies that play different roles in getting medicines to patients.

 

Rebates are payments made by drug manufacturers to “pharmacy benefit managers,” middlemen that negotiate drug prices on behalf of companies, unions, and government agencies. PBMs come up with lists of drugs that receive preferred coverage from insurers and also arrange rebates from drug makers in exchange for favorable insurance coverage.

 

Sometimes the payments that drug manufacturers make to PBMs are passed on to insurers, and sometimes insurers pass on to patients the savings from those rebates. But the amount of those payments are kept secret.

 

Sound complicated and opaque? Alexander seems to thinks so too.

 

“Why don’t we just get rid of rebates and let you negotiate directly with manufactures, take that $100 billion a year, and just reduce the list price?”

 

Alexander turned to the drug manufacturers at the hearing, represented by Lori Reilly, executive vice president for policy, research, and membership at the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

 

“Would you like to eliminate rebates?” Alexander asked.

 

Find the response here…

 

Further Reading:

  • “Drug Ads & Coupons: Who's the Decider? The Patient, the Physician, or the FDA?”; http://bit.ly/1T68qmn
  •  “Mylan ‘Gamed the System’ and Refuses to Testify at Senate Hearing About EpiPen Costs to Medicaid”; http://sco.lt/4mtPaj
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Right After Trump Blamed High Drug Prices On Campaign Contributions, #Pharma Gave More

Right After Trump Blamed High Drug Prices On Campaign Contributions, #Pharma Gave More | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

“The cost of medicine in this country is outrageous,” President Donald Trump said at a rally in Louisville, Ky., two months after his inauguration. He went on about how identical pills have vastly lower price tags in Europe (read “Trump's Comments Are Big Pharma's Nightmare”; http://sco.lt/8QzAsT).

 

“You know why?” the president asked, before spreading his hands wide. “Campaign contributions, who knows. But somebody is getting very rich.”

 

It was March 20, 2017.

 

The next day, drugmakers donated more money to political campaigns than they had on any other day in 2017 so far, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of campaign spending in the first half of the year reported in Federal Election Commission filings.

 

This KHN story also ran in HuffPost. It can be republished for free (details).

Eight pharmaceutical political action committees made 134 contributions, spread over 77 politicians, on March 21. They spent $279,400 in all, showering Republicans and Democrats in both legislative bodies with campaign cash, according to FEC filings. The second-highest one-day contribution tally was $203,500, on June 20.

 

  • Further Reading:
  • Public Citizen's Challenge to Trump’s ‘One-In, Two-Out’ Executive Order on Regulations; http://sco.lt/78KV6X
  • “Big Pharma (@PhRMA) Stands Behind Trump Even As He Vows to Lower Prices to Medicare”; http://sco.lt/5461NB
Pharma Guy's insight:

LOL!

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@PhRMA Employs a "Dark Money" Shell Game to Oppose OH Drug Price Relief Act

@PhRMA Employs a "Dark Money" Shell Game to Oppose OH Drug Price Relief Act | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

The skirmish in Ohio over a ballot measure for lowering drug prices took a twist as a consumer advocate filed a complaint with state authorities alleging the pharmaceutical industry is illegally masking “dark money” from individual drug makers that oppose the initiative.

 

Known as the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, the ballot measure would require state agencies to pay no more for medicines than the Department of Veterans Affairs. The agency currently gets a 24 percent federally mandated discount off average manufacturer prices. Supporters say the measure would save state residents $400 million annually.

 

In her complaint, Tracy Jones, a former executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, charges that a limited liability company established by the pharmaceutical industry trade group failed to comply with state campaign finance disclosure laws, such as not providing a list of donors.

 

About $15.8 million was donated in recent weeks by the Ohioans against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue LLC, to a political action committee with the same name, and which was created at the same time as the LLC. In effect, the LLC is allegedly functioning as a political action committee and, therefore, is obligated to disclose contributors, according to the complaint filed on Wednesday with the Ohio Elections Commission.

 

The LLC was registered last May with state officials and the form was signed by Scott LaGanga, a senior vice president in charge of state advocacy at the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, the industry trade group. Another form lists the LLC as a wholly owned subsidiary of PhRMA.

 

One campaign financing expert had this to say:

 

“Circumventing disclosure of individual donors is certainly nothing new. But it’s somewhat difficult to understand why a trade group that represents the pharmaceutical industry thinks that hiding company names will achieve anything,” Edwin Bender, executive director, National Institute on Money in State Politics, a non-profit, told us. “Everyone knows who they represent.

 

“It appears they’re forming a shell company to move money around so they’re not held accountable, but corporations aren’t people — they don’t have feeling, morals, or civic courage. They’re protecting bottom lines. But in the age of the Internet, it’s an old strategy that’s getting a little tired. It’s also bad policy.”

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There’s No Magical Savings in Showing Prices to Doctors

There’s No Magical Savings in Showing Prices to Doctors | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Physicians are often unaware of the cost of a test, drug or scan that they order for their patients. If they were better informed, would they make different choices?

 

Evidence shows that while this idea might make sense in theory, it doesn’t seem to bear out in practice.

 

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine involved almost 100,000 patients, more than 140,000 hospital admissions and a random distribution of laboratory tests. During the electronic ordering process, half the tests were presented to doctors alongside fees. While the cost to the patient might vary, these Medicare-allowable fees were what was reimbursed to the hospital for the test or tests being considered. The other half of the tests were presented without such data.

 

The researchers suspected that in the group seeing the prices, there would be a decrease in the number of tests ordered each day per patient, and that spending on these tests would go down. This didn’t happen. Over the course of a year, there were no meaningful or consistent changes in ordering by the doctors; revealing the prices didn’t change what they did much at all.

 

While focusing solely on physicians, or on patients, might not work well, trying to work on both simultaneously might (read “Can You Put a Price Tag on Consumer Drug Ads? AMA Thinks It's Possible.”; http://sco.lt/82xivx).

 

Finally, trying to make physicians focus strictly on cost may be off base as well. Some care, even more expensive care, is worth it. What we really should attend to is value — the quality and impact relative to the cost. It is certainly harder to determine value than price, but that metric might make more of a difference to physicians, and to their patients.

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Funny, Witty, Snarky Pharmaguy Memes About Pharma

The original, pre-internet definition of a meme is, “an element of a culture on system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation”.

Today, the “element of culture” is often an image or photo that has spread through social media or texting and which has been modified to include overlaid text. At least, that is how my son defines meme.

Over the years I have created numerous memes that I hope will be copied and passed on from one pharmaceutical marketer to another. This PowerPoint presentation includes many of my favorite memes and some insights on why I created them. Most of these memes have to be viewed in context of the news and events that inspired them. So for each one, I provide links back to the original social media post in which they appeared. Hopefully that will provide the necessary context.

Enjoy and feel free to spread them through your social media channels!

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A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year!

A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

For the second time this year, Pfizer has made substantial price hikes on some of its medicines, a move that disregards blistering criticism of the pharmaceutical industry over the cost of prescription drugs.

 

Specifically, the drug maker raised prices for 91 medicines on June 1 by between 5 percent and 13 percent, according to The Financial Times. This marks the second time this year that Pfizer boosted prices and, when factoring in price hikes made last January, the company has raised prices an average of 20 per cent this year.

 

As an example, the paper pointed to the average wholesale price of a 100 mg tablet of Viagra, which was $57.94 at the start of the year, but now costs $73.85 after two consecutive increases. As a result, the list price for the little blue pill, as it is known, has jumped 27.5 percent this year.

 

The move comes as more Americans complain about the toll that price hikes are having on their wallets and the Pfizer price hikes are certain to fuel further controversy, especially since the company refused to agree to limit annual increase to single digits. Some drug makers — Allergan (read “Allergan's Brent Saunders' Manifesto on Drug Prices & Access”; http://sco.lt/6WN0AT) and Novo Nordisk (read “Novo Nordisk President Pledges to Limit List Prices of Drugs But Cannot Guarantee Market Price”; http://sco.lt/7vRFzt) — have taken this vow and Sanofi is linking prices hikes to medical inflation, but these notion have failed to catch on in a meaningful way.

 

Instead, Pfizer chief executive Ian Read has argued that medicines should be judged on their value (read “Ian Read – Bean Counter Pfizer CEO – Won’t Commit to Keep a Lid on Drug Price Increases”; http://sco.lt/8OkYAD). But at an industry conference last year, he appeared riled when Regeneron chief executive Len Schleifer chastised drug makers for boosting prices on a regular basis, and appeared to single out price hikes that Pfizer took over a six-month period — 8.8 percent and 10.4 percent, on average — in 2016 (“Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read???”; http://sco.lt/8ZED0T).

 

Pfizer may have hard a time explaining how the value of so many of their medicines increased over such a short period of time to justify such price hikes, especially given public anger.

 

Further Reading:

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A Look at Major Drug-Pricing Proposals: The Good, The Bad, and The Defeated

A Look at Major Drug-Pricing Proposals: The Good, The Bad, and The Defeated | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Several bills that seek to tackle the high cost of prescription drugs are moving through Congress, and the Trump administration has also signaled that it may take action.

 

Here’s a list of the major drug-pricing proposals under consideration.

 

Speeding approval of generic drugs.

 

Requiring notice when drug prices go up.

  • “#Pharma Lobbying Wins: California Drug Price Transparency Bill is Scrapped”; http://sco.lt/5uLjOb

 

Importing drugs from outside the United States.

  • “PhRMA Lobbying Pays Off Again: Senate Panel Rejects Proposal to Allow Importation of Rx Drugs from Canada”; http://sco.lt/6aKhIf
  • “Senators Start a New Effort to Allow Importation of Certain Drugs from Canada. Will Trump Play Security Card?”: http://sco.lt/644f0D

 

Requiring pharmacy benefit managers to be more transparent.

  • “Democratic Lawmakers Introduce Bills Designed to Lower Drug Prices, Increase Transparency & Eliminate Tax Credits for Advertising”; http://sco.lt/94EPb7

 

Allowing the government to negotiate the price of drugs covered by Medicare.

  • “Lilly CEO David Ricks Likes Medicare Just the Way It Is: A ‘Good Model Going Forward’”: http://sco.lt/5wO677
  • “Did Big Pharma Just Convince Trump to Abandon His Push to Let Medicare Negotiate Drug Prices?”; http://sco.lt/8CcWbB

 

What will the Trump administration do?

 

On Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said one option under consideration was to impose mandatory rebates on drugs purchased by Medicare, similar to the ones required through Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor.

 

[“Trump Will Need Unlikely GOP Support to Bring Down Drug Prices, If He Means What He Says”; http://sco.lt/96YH6f ]

 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the newly confirmed commissioner of the F.D.A., has also said he is considering changes that would speed up the approval of generic drugs.

 

Further Reading:

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The Trouble With Rare-Disease Drugs... Price!

The average U.S. patient on an orphan drug last year relied on a $136,000 therapy, a figure that’s climbed 38 percent since 2010. A fraction of a teaspoon of Soliris [a drug by Alexion approved to treat a rare blood disorder called atypical hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or aHUS, and priced from $500,000 to $700,000 a year], administered in a single 35-minute treatment, costs more than $18,000, and patients might need 26 treatments a year for the rest of their lives. With this single drug accounting for almost all its revenue, Alexion has created enormous wealth out of an estimated 11,000 customers. It generated $3 billion in sales in 2016.

 

Having to rely for profits on a small number of customers who are each potentially worth millions of dollars causes side effects of its own. For years, the sales culture at Alexion was so pressure-packed that aggressive phone calls to doctors were among its milder transgressions. Ethical lines were routinely crossed, troubling many of its workers, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former employees and more than 2,000 pages of internal documents.

 

Further Reading:

Pharma Guy's insight:

I notice that price-gouging Alexion Pharmaceuticals was NOT ousted by PhRMA in its recent “purge” (read “@PhRMA Ousts Marathon #pharma et al to Appease Trump & His Campaign Promises”; http://sco.lt/8Zj01B).

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PhRMA Lobbying Pays Off Again: Senate Panel Rejects Proposal to Allow Importation of Rx Drugs from Canada

PhRMA Lobbying Pays Off Again: Senate Panel Rejects Proposal to Allow Importation of Rx Drugs from Canada | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A Senate panel on Thursday rejected a Democratic effort to make it easier for Americans to purchase medications from Canada, where prescription drugs are typically sold at significantly cheaper prices than in the United States.

 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-10 along mostly party lines to kill the proposal, which was offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as an amendment to bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize Food and Drug Administration programs.

 

Opponents of easing federal laws on drug importation, including the pharmaceutical lobby, say it could expose Americans to unsafe medicines that haven’t been vetted by U.S. regulators.

 

“This would put Americans at risk of counterfeit and substandard drugs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at the markup. “There’s no way for Americans to ensure the drug being dispensed in a Canadian pharmacy is the same drug as what the doctor prescribed.”

 

Sanders said the amendment has provisions to ensure drugs imported from Canada are safe. Opposition to the proposal, he said, is being fueled by lobbying from the drug industry, not out of concern for drug safety.

 

“This amendment is about whether or not we have the courage to stand up to an industry which has spent more than $3 billion lobbying since 1998 to make certain that we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” he said.

 

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry’s trade group, said it has concerns about importation proposals in Congress due to safety issues, pointing to counterfeit drugs that reached the United States from China via Mexico and Canada.

 

“Even Canada has said it does not and would not be able to guarantee that U.S. citizens would receive products that are safe, effective and of high quality,” PhRMA spokesman Andrew Powaleny said. “Guaranteeing patient safety is crucial, and we must have policies that ensure patients safely have access to the medicines they need.”

 

Further Reading:

Bernie to Trump: “Talk is Cheap.” Stand Up to Big Pharma! Support Importing Drugs from Canada!: http://sco.lt/83osEr

Senators Start a New Effort to Allow Importation of Certain Drugs from Canada. Will Trump Play Security Card?: http://sco.lt/644f0D

Pharma Guy's insight:

This is part of Sanders’ campaign to thwart president Trump’s agenda. However, Bernie is up against a much stronger opponent than Trump – the drug industry lobby headed by PhRMA, which is now firmly in Trump’s camp (read, for example, Big Pharma Struggles to Distance Itself from "Price Gouging" Small Pharma: http://bit.ly/2ra4Pd1).

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PriceGougi$ol: Insurers Fight Back Against #Pharma with Spoof Ad. "It's Not Us. It's Them."

Drug prices are out-of-control. While Big Pharma is posting record profits, too many hardworking Americans are having to choose between paying their bills and accessing life-saving medicines. Enough is enough.

 

[From Pharmalot] The yellow pill is dubbed “PriceGougi$ol,” and the activists who dreamed it up want it to become a new face of the backlash against high prescription drug prices.

 

A spoof ad for the fake drug made its debut Tuesday as part of the launch of a multimillion dollar push to call attention to “out-of-control” price increases. The organizer, the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a project from the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition on Health Care, plans in the coming months to put out more ads and promote the stories of Americans impacted by high drug prices.

 

It’s all being paid for by CSRxP’s 28 member organizations, ranging from Walmart to a union to Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates.

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Mytheos Holt: The Cancer Drug Market That Big Pharma is Planning for America

Mytheos Holt: The Cancer Drug Market That Big Pharma is Planning for America | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

2018 has barely finished dawning, and already, the pharmaceutical industry once more has egg on its face from outrageous price hikes.

 

This time, the culprit is pharmaceutical startup NextSource, which apparently has taken a 40-year-old cancer drug known as lomustine, and ruthlessly hiked its price from $50/pill in 2013, to $768/pill now. In other words, they’ve raised the price of the drug by over 1400% over the past five years.

 

NextSource’s defense for why this has happened has to be read to be believed. CBS News reports that the company’s CEO, Robert DiCrisci, claims that the company set the price based on the costs it incurred in developing the drug, and “the benefits it provides patients.”

 

Now, obviously, the drug has been around for 40 years, so the costs of developing it to NextSource, which only acquired the rights to it in 2013, have likely been nonexistent. Which means that the company set the price entirely on the basis of the fact that the drug benefits patients, or to put it more bluntly, the fact that patients need the drug in order to not die. “Nice life you’ve got there, shame if anything happened to it,” is essentially their reasoning. Granted, NextSource is far from the only pharma company to hike its prices with the new year – the practice is still distressingly widespread – but it is the most egregious.

 

Make no mistake, Big Pharma very much wants us to remain at the mercy of their monopolistic practices, and not to be subjected to market forces. The fate of lomustine is what they would impose on every single drug on earth, if they could. You can tell because every legislative or policy-driven attempt to introduce market forces, or to curb price gouging in their absence, is on Pharma’s hit list.

Pharma Guy's insight:

It's like mobsters shaking down mom and pop businesses!

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Trump Nominates a Pharma Fox to Run the HHS Henhouse

Trump Nominates a Pharma Fox to Run the HHS Henhouse | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

President Trump's pick for health secretary previously served as a high-ranking executive at a pharmaceutical company that repeatedly raised the prices of its drugs, doubling the U.S. list price of its top-selling insulin over the five years he served as a company president.

 

Trump endorsed Alex Azar, a previous deputy secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush and pharmaceuticals executive at diabetes pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly, as “a star for better health care and lower drug prices” on Twitter.

 

Supporters said that Azar's understanding of the complicated dynamics behind pharmaceuticals pricing would give him an advantage in figuring out how to make drugs more affordable. Critics, however, noted that Azar's tenure at Lilly coincided with massive list price increases on insulin and made him particularly ill-suited to lower drug prices.

 

While Azar led Eli Lilly's largest affiliate, Lilly USA, the U.S. list price of Humalog insulin more than doubled, from $123 per vial in Jan. 2012 to $255 per vial when he left the company in early 2017, according to data from Truven Health Analytics. Lilly, along with other insulin makers, was hit by a class-action lawsuit alleging overpricing of insulin earlier this year.

 

“Alex had a successful career at Lilly, and we wish him the best in his future work,” Lilly spokesman Greg Kueterman said in an email.

 

Azar joined Lilly in 2007 as a senior vice president of global corporate affairs and communications. He rose to become president of the company's largest affiliate, Lilly USA, in 2012. Kueterman said his responsibilities included direction over the sales and marketing operations of the entire U.S. commercial business, including diabetes.

 

“This is the terrible record on price that we saw; now we’re talking about putting him in charge of the people's health agency — what reason do we have to expect any difference?” said Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen, a watchdog group. “It's a pharma fox to run the HHS henhouse.”

 

Further Reading:

  • “If Alex Azar Is Confirmed as HHS Secretary, the Big Pharma/Gov’t Swamp Will Get Worse”; http://sco.lt/67pLZR
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Celgene "Gets Away with Murder!" Raises Prices Again and Again.

Celgene "Gets Away with Murder!" Raises Prices Again and Again. | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Judging by the latest pricing data, Robert Hugin is still getting away with murder.

 

Last January, the Celgene (CELG) chief executive sat alongside President Trump at a widely covered White House meeting to discuss pharmaceutical issues. The gathering was held shortly after Trump claimed drug makers are “getting away with murder” over their prices. And four months earlier, Allergan (AGN) chief executive Brent Saunders challenged other companies to hold their annual price hikes to single digits.

 

So what does Hugin do? He keeps raising prices.

 

Last week, Celgene raised the price of its best-selling Revlimid cancer treatment by 9 percent, the third time this year the biotech has taken a price hike, according to Cowen analyst Eric Schmidt.

 

In July, Celgene boosted the price by 1.75 percent after an 8 percent increase in January. The latest price hike brings the average price for Revlimid up by 14.1 percent this year compared with last year, which is well above the price increases of 11.4 percent last year and 9.4 percent two years ago, Schmidt noted.

 

But wait, there’s more.

 

Further Reading:

  • “Thalidomide Offsprings Yield Blockbuster Profits for Celgene Aided by Off-Label Promotion”; http://sco.lt/5kJeZV
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California Delivers Blow to Pharma: Requires Drug Price Transparency

California Delivers Blow to Pharma: Requires Drug Price Transparency | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In a blow to the pharmaceutical industry, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill into law that requires drug makers to explain and justify price hikes, making this the latest state to actively address the high cost of medicines.

 

The bill, which was vociferously fought by the pharmaceutical industry, is set to become one of the more comprehensive state efforts to address pricing transparency.

 

For instance, drug makers have to provide 60-day notice to insurers and government health plans before increasing list prices of any medicine that costs more than $40 by at least 16 percent in a two-year period. And health plans have to provide detailed information about prescription drug costs and the portion of premiums attributed to this expense. (Here is a fact sheet on the bill.)

 

“Californians have a right to know why their medical costs are out of control. This measure is a step in bringing transparency, truth, exposure to a very important part of our lives – that is, the cost of prescription drugs,” said Brown at a ceremony where he signed the bill into law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1 (you can watch the ceremony here).

 

“It’s a monumental achievement for the entire nation,” state Sen. Ed Hernandez said last month after the state legislature sent the bill to Brown. The legislation “will set national health care policy, having impact for consumers and providers in other states.”

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Donald Trump appoints adviser who helps big pharma hike drug prices

Donald Trump’s new senior economic adviser has helped pharmaceutical companies lobby to charge astronomical prices for crucial drugs.

 

Last Monday, the White House confirmed that Tomas J. Philipson, a health care economist, was joining the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

 

That announcement was made just hours after Trump publicly accused Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier of charging patients “ripoff prices” for drugs after he resigned from the President’s Manufacturing Council in protest at the president’s response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.

 

Drugmakers in the U.S. have faced withering criticism in recent times for soaring prices, including by Congress and the president, though he has yet to actually act on his promise to contain them.

 

Perhaps that explains why the official White House statement announcing Philipson’s appointment to the council includes a lengthy list of the universities he’s taught at but no mention of the company he co-founded, Precision Health Economics.

 

PHE describe themselves as a “world-renowned, cutting-edge consultancy firm” that specialises in health policy, economics, and analytics.

 

It all sounds impressive and relatively harmless, but according to a ProPublica investigation earlier this year, the company has been enlisted by pharmaceutical companies to mount relentless public relations campaign touting new treatments and persuading insurers, including U.S. government programs such as Medicare, to cover the costs.

 

Precision Health Economics has boasted at least 25 pharmaceutical and biotech companies as clients, including giants like Amgen, Gilead, and Pfizer. They also, coincidentally enough, have consulted for Merck — whose CEO Trump denounced for gouging prices just this week.

 

The company’s founders, including President Trump’s new economic adviser Tomas Phillipson, recruited an impressive group of high-profile academics to consult for these clients. Some in higher education have expressed concerns that such a tight relationship with industry might suggest bias. “I personally find, when your enterprise relies so substantially on a particular source of funds, you will tend to favor that source”, said Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt.

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Trump Is Letting Pharma Continue to "Get Away With Murder!"

Trump Is Letting Pharma Continue to "Get Away With Murder!" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In the early days of his administration, President Trump did not hesitate to bash the drug industry. But a draft of an executive order on drug prices appears to give the pharmaceutical industry much of what it has asked for — and no guarantee that costs to consumers will drop.

 

The draft, which The New York Times obtained on Tuesday, is light on specifics but clear on philosophy: Easing regulatory hurdles for the drug industry is the best way to get prices down.

 

The proposals identify some issues that have stoked public outrage — such as the high out-of-pocket costs for medicines — but it largely leaves the drug industry unscathed. In fact, the four-page document contains several proposals that have long been championed by the industry, including strengthening drugmakers’ monopoly power overseas and scaling back a federal program that requires pharmaceutical companies to give discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve low-income patients.

 

Mr. Trump has often excoriated the drug industry for high prices, seizing on an issue that stirs the anger of Republicans and Democrats alike. He has accused the industry of “getting away with murder,”[http://sco.lt/6W2Ly5] and said that he wanted to allow the federal government to negotiate directly with drug companies over the price of drugs covered by Medicare (but read “Did Big Pharma Just Convince Trump to Abandon His Push to Let Medicare Negotiate Drug Prices?”; http://sco.lt/8CcWbB).

 

But the proposed order does little to specifically call out the drug industry and instead focuses on rolling back regulations, a favorite target of the administration across many federal agencies.

 

“I do believe that the president wants to do something to lower drug prices for people, but this is a far cry from what he said on the campaign trail,” said David Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, a nonprofit that does not take money from the industry. “I don’t see anything there that addresses the drug companies getting away with murder, and it appears that is because Pharma has captured the process.”

 

Several of the proposals appear to reflect that industry influence. For example, the document directs the United States trade representative to conduct a study of price differences between the United States and other countries, and to review trade agreements that may need to be revised “to promote greater intellectual property protection and competition in the global market” (read I”an Read, CEO of Pfizer, aka the ‘Donald Trump of Pharma,’ Bashes Global ‘Freeloading’ Off U.S.”; http://sco.lt/7TRiDZ).

 

The draft order targets a program, 340B, that requires the drug industry to give discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve large numbers of low-income patients. The industry has complained that the program is being abused, while hospitals say they would have to cut services without it.

 

“That’s one that sticks out as a bit of a head scratcher,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who was a top F.D.A. official under President Barack Obama. “This is the executive order to lower drug prices — why would you put in a provision that would raise drug prices?”

 

In recent weeks, the industry has shown signs it believes it is getting a fairer shake.

 

In May, Joseph Jimenez, the chief executive of Novartis, told investors that he believed the administration would offer a solution that “will preserve the business model of how we innovate and discover and develop and launch in the U.S., as opposed to some of the bigger and more draconian elements that were discussed earlier,” according to Bloomberg.

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Can You Put a Price Tag on Consumer Drug Ads? AMA Thinks It's Possible.

Can You Put a Price Tag on Consumer Drug Ads? AMA Thinks It's Possible. | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Seeking to restrain drug prices, the American Medical Association passed a resolution that would require drug makers to disclose pricing in ads that are aimed at consumers.

 

The proposal, which was approved by AMA delegates at their annual meeting in Chicago, came in response to concerns over rising drug costs and an unsuccessful bid by the medical organization to convince Congress to ban so-called direct-to-consumer advertising altogether (read “AMA Calls for a Ban on Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads”; http://sco.lt/4iRfrF).

 

The resolution, which must still clear some review hurdles at the AMA, is designed to improve transparency, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society, one of six organizations in New England that jointly proposed the idea (see Resolution 236). [UPDATE: The AMA wants drug makers to disclose the suggested manufacturer’s retail price, but does not offer a definition, and there are myriad prices, of course, that can vary].

 

Ultimately, the medical organization hopes to persuade the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration to formalize the pricing disclosure. But one opponent predicted the effort will go nowhere for several reasons.

 

“I don’t expect anything to happen,” said John Kamp, who heads the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, a trade group for medical publishers and advertising agencies. “This is a Republican administration and all three of those agencies are unlikely to be very interested.” [LOL! I once thought that passing a law to ban DTC drug ads was about as likely as trump being elected president: http://sco.lt/7NoUtd So, you never know!]

 

Further Reading:

Pharma Guy's insight:

LOL! I once thought that passing a law to ban DTC drug ads was about as likely as trump being elected president. So, you never know!

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Mylan Execs "Untroubled" by EpiPen Price Increases. Suggest Employees, Critics & Congress Go F**k Themselves

Mylan Execs "Untroubled" by EpiPen Price Increases. Suggest Employees, Critics & Congress Go F**k Themselves | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

You might recall EpiPen as last year’s poster child for out-of-control drug prices (read “Pharma Sis, Mylan CEO, Hits Her EpiPen Marketing Target: Moms! Price Gouging Followed”; http://sco.lt/5Iy70b). Though this simple medical device contains only about $1 of the drug epinephrine, the company that sells it, Mylan, earned the public’s enmity and lawmakers’ scrutiny after ratcheting up prices to $609 a box.

 

Outraged parents, presidential candidates and even both parties in Congress managed to unite to attack Mylan for the price increases. By August, the company, which sells thousands of drugs and says it fills one in every 13 American prescriptions, was making mea culpas and renewing its promise to “do what’s right, not what’s easy,” as the company’s mission statement goes.

 

So I was surprised when my pharmacist informed me, months after those floggings and apologies had faded from the headlines, that I would still need to pay $609 for a box of two EpiPens.

 

Over the last several weeks, I’ve spoken with 10 former high-ranking executives at Mylan who told me that they weren’t surprised EpiPen prices were still high. Nor were many startled by last week’s developments (read “HHS: Mylan Overcharged Medicaid $1.27B. DOJ: Nothing to See Here, Move On!”; http://sco.lt/5SS2e9).

 

Mylan, they said, is an example of a firm that has thrived by learning to absorb, and then ignore, opprobrium. The company has an effective monopoly on a lifesaving product, which has allowed its leaders to see public outrage as a tax they must pay, and then move on.

 

To understand Mylan’s culture, consider a series of conversations that began inside the company in 2014. A group of midlevel executives was concerned about the soaring price of EpiPens, which had more than doubled in the previous four years; there were rumors that even more aggressive hikes were planned. 

 

In meetings, the executives began warning Mylan’s top leaders that the price increases seemed like unethical profiteering at the expense of sick children and adults, according to people who participated in the conversations. Over the next 16 months, those internal warnings were repeatedly aired. At one gathering, executives shared their concerns with Mylan’s chairman, Robert Coury.

 

Mr. Coury replied that he was untroubled. He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves. Critics in Congress and on Wall Street, he said, should do the same. And regulators at the Food and Drug Administration? They, too, deserved a round of anatomically challenging self-fulfillment.

 

Further Reading:

  • “Letters to "Pharma Sis" to Cut EpiPen Price to Improve Goodwill Will Fall on a Tin Ear”; http://sco.lt/8mfk5x
  • “Mylan CEO Bresch, aka "Pharma Sis," Defends Price Gouging, Tax Evasion as Job Savers”; http://sco.lt/7uKmLB
  • “FDA is Cause of Mylan's Monopolistic Pricing of EpiPen, Says WSJ. Allergist Has Cure.”; http://sco.lt/7F88nJ
  • “Mylan's Patient Assistance is a "Convoluted Scheme," Says Public Citizen”; http://sco.lt/8NWO0H
  • “Sarah Jessica Parker to Stop Shilling for Mylan Because of EpiPen Pricing: What Did She Expect?”; http://sco.lt/7oM4HZ
  • “Awash in Criticism, Mylan Has Decreased its Fearmongering Awareness Advertising”; http://sco.lt/6WeuSv
  • “Mylan, EpiPen Price Gouger, Ranks No. 2 in U.S. #Pharma Exec Pay!”; http://sco.lt/6lVvf7
  • “Is There No End to Mylan's Shenanigans? Paying Off Patient Groups to Lobby!”; http://sco.lt/6Sl0ld
  • “Mylan CEO's Mom Used Position with Education Group to Boost EpiPen Sales Nationwide”; http://sco.lt/8tL3kP
  • “Yes, Mylan DID "Misclassify" EpiPen as a Generic, Says Medicaid”; http://sco.lt/5aJWEb
  • “Mylan "Gamed the System" and Refuses to Testify at Senate Hearing About EpiPen Costs to Medicaid”; http://sco.lt/4mtPaj
Pharma Guy's insight:

I told my readers protests wouldn't work a long time ago: “Letters to 'Pharma Sis' to Cut EpiPen Price to Improve Goodwill Will Fall on a Tin Ear”; http://sco.lt/8mfk5x

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#Pharma, PBMs, Pharmacies: The "Three Stooges of Drug Price Lobbying!"

#Pharma, PBMs, Pharmacies: The "Three Stooges of Drug Price Lobbying!" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A civil war has broken out among the most powerful players in the pharmaceutical industry — including brand-name and generic drug makers, and even your local pharmacists — with each blaming others for the rising price of medicine.

 

“You remember that old photograph of the Three Stooges, their faces cracked sideways and they are pointing at each other?” asked Chester Davis Jr., the president of the Association for Accessible Medicines. “Everyone is doing the finger-pointing, when in fact there is a lot of blame to go around.”

 

When the independent pharmacists descended on Capitol Hill in late April, they came with a brochure depicting benefit managers as sharp-toothed dogs, grabbing bags of money.

 

With billions in profit on the line, the pharmaceutical and health products industry has already spent $78 million on lobbying in the first quarter of this year, a 14 percent jump over last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The industry pays some 1,100 lobbyists — more than two for each member of Congress.

 

In the 2016 election cycle, the industry poured more than $58 million into the election campaigns of members of Congress and presidential candidates, as well as other political causes, the Center for Responsive Politics data shows. That was the biggest investment in the industry’s history and a 20 percent jump from the last presidential election cycle in 2012.

 

No single proposal has emerged as a clear winner in the bid to lower prices. Mr. Trump has sent conflicting signals: On one hand, he has accused the industry of “price fixing” and has said the government should be allowed to negotiate the price of drugs covered by Medicare. At other times, he has talked about rolling back regulations and named an industry-friendly former congressman, Tom Price, to head the Department of Health and Human Services, and a former pharmaceutical consultant, Scott Gottlieb, to lead the Food and Drug Administration. [Meanwhile, “Big Pharma (@PhRMA) Stands Behind Trump Even As He Vows to Lower Prices to Medicare”; http://sco.lt/5461NB]

 

Members of Congress have put forward a grab-bag of options, each of which would help or hurt different industry players (read “A Look at Major Drug-Pricing Proposals: The Good, The Bad, and The Defeated”; http://sco.lt/6OrJq5).

 

Some address minor aspects, such as a bipartisan bill that would force brand-name drugmakers to hand over samples of their drugs to generic competitors. One would allow for the importing of cheaper drugs. Another would force pharmacy benefit managers to disclose more information about how they did business.

 

For now, it is a free-for-all.

 

The brand-name drug industry is the dominant player. It spends the most on campaign contributions, has the largest army of lobbyists and has the biggest pile of chits among lawmakers to try to protect its own interests.

 

Its trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, was so concerned about its vulnerability this year that it increased its annual dues by 50 percent — generating an extra $100 million to flood social media, television stations, as well as newspapers and magazines with advertising that reminds consumers of the industry’s role in helping to save lives. A second set of PhRMA ads point blame for price increases elsewhere, like benefit managers and health insurers (read “PhRMA Plans to Seize Control of Public Narrative Over Drug Prices with Massive Ad Campaign”; http://sco.lt/9E2Lab).

 

Further Reading:

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High-Priced Drugs Raise Costs for Seniors in Medicare Part D

High-Priced Drugs Raise Costs for Seniors in Medicare Part D | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

An analysis of government data by The Wall Street Journal found expensive medicines are increasingly denting the pocketbooks of seniors and other beneficiaries in Medicare’s prescription-drug program, known as Part D, despite federal legislation meant to reduce out-of-pocket costs and drugmakers’ increasing discounts.

 

The median out-of-pocket cost for a drug purchased through Part D was $117 in 2015, up nearly half from $79 in 2011, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the Journal’s analysis found. The analysis excluded low-income patients whose copays are paid primarily by the government.

 

Some 220 Part D drugs had annual out-of-pocket costs of $1,000 or more in 2015, up 86% from 118 drugs in 2011.

 

Factors driving the trend include sharply rising drug prices, which grew by an average 14% a year from 2011 to 2015, and the introduction of new medicines with prices that commonly exceed $50,000 annually, according to the Journal’s analysis. In addition, the complicated design of Part D requires patients to pay a percentage of their drugs’ total retail price, a particular burden for those who use expensive medicines.

 

Medicare patients taking high-price drugs don’t benefit directly from the rebates that pharmaceutical companies often give to insurers. Instead, patients pay a portion of the drug’s sticker price at the pharmacy, “without regard to rebates and other price concessions,” CMS said in January. Rebates and discounts totaled $23.63 billion, or 17.2% of gross drug costs, in 2015, up from $9.76 billion and 11.5% of gross costs in 2011, according to CMS.

 

“There are a lot of patients who aren’t able to afford prescription drugs in Medicare,” says Tim Gronniger, who oversaw drug-spending issues as deputy chief of staff at CMS until he left this past January. “That’s a big problem, and it’s gotten worse over the last couple of years,” he says.

 

Instead of using rebates to reduce patients’ cost-sharing on expensive drugs, insurers use them to reduce monthly premiums for all beneficiaries, according to CMS and health insurers.

 

Further Reading:

  • “Lilly CEO David Ricks Likes Medicare Just the Way It Is: A ‘Good Model Going Forward’”: http://sco.lt/5wO677
  • “Did Big Pharma Just Convince Trump to Abandon His Push to Let Medicare Negotiate Drug Prices?”; http://sco.lt/8CcWbB
  • “10 Essential Facts About Medicare and Prescription Drug Spending”; http://sco.lt/8vUQ7d
  • “Medicare Part D Spending on Drugs is Like ‘Pouring Money Down the Drain’"; http://sco.lt/7igOmn
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@PhRMA Does Not Gold Boldly Enough to Address Real Issue, Says Law Professor

@PhRMA Does Not Gold Boldly Enough to Address Real Issue, Says Law Professor | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

[Opinion of Rachel Sachs is an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis] Earlier this month, PhRMA — the trade group representing innovator pharmaceutical companies — announced a set of new membership criteria. Going forward, PhRMA members will need to meet certain standards regarding their investment in R&D (read “@PhRMA Ousts Marathon #pharma et al”; http://sco.lt/8Zj01B).

 

PhRMA may have felt it needed to take action to restore public confidence in the industry and to constrain the bad press its members have been receiving on the drug pricing front. In my view, the new rules miss the mark.

 

Under the new criteria, member companies must invest at least 10 percent of global sales into R&D and pour at least $200 million annually into R&D, both measured on a three-year average.

 

I would argue these new criteria are not narrowly tailored to the matter at hand. There is a mismatch between the goals seemingly behind these new criteria and the specific tools they have chosen to bring them about.

 

First, consider the substance of the criteria in context. Many PhRMA members are directly under fire for some of their pricing practices, and we have seen pledges in recent months by individual companies to publicly restrain themselves from some of the industry’s price-hiking behavior.

 

Why, then, tie the new criteria to the amount spent on R&D, rather than to pledges not to engage in some of the more overt bad acts of these companies? The disconnect is particularly strange when you consider that a common argument companies make when confronted with price hikes is that the increased revenue is needed to fund additional R&D.

 

A likely explanation can be found in PhRMA’s attempt to rebrand itself under the auspices of its big new advertising campaign, “Go Boldly.” The industry is seeking to remind customers that it is responsible for the innovative medical breakthroughs that have saved so many lives, and that so many people rely on each day (read “@PhRMA Goes Even More BOLDLY in a New Ad Campaign”; http://sco.lt/5xvWTp).

 

Publicly tying membership in the organization to R&D expenditures allows PhRMA to say that each of its members shares in the “Go Boldly” vision and is committed to the mission of innovation in new medical breakthroughs. However, it does so at the cost of ignoring the particular actions that have created much of the public outrage on the subject of drug pricing.

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Questions Trump Should Ask Biotech CEOs Today

Questions Trump Should Ask Biotech CEOs Today | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

It’s the biotechnology industry’s turn to dazzle Donald Trump — or at least to try — in a meeting at the White House on Monday. Top on the agenda: the hot debate over federal funding for biomedical research.

 

  1. Will Trump ask his guests why they charge so much for drugs?

 

Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. Jeffrey Leiden is coming to the event, as per a guest list obtained by Bloomberg. Why do we mention that? Because Vertex’s cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi has a list price of $259,000 a year.

 

Executives from Celgene are slated to attend, too. Their blood cancer drug Revlimid lists at about $130,000 a year (read “Orphan Drugs Are ‘Wicked Hot’ & Profitable for Pharma to Boot!”; http://sco.lt/5f0Fer).

 

Trump, of course, has famously accused drug makers of “getting away with murder.” (He also called the entire industry “disastrous.”) But when he met with key representatives from the biopharma world in late January, he was much more temperate.

 

If Trump does decide to come out swinging, he may find an unexpected ally in the room, in Regeneron CEO Dr. Len Schleifer. He has taken on his fellow CEOs on pricing, accusing them of letting greed darken the reputation of the industry (“Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer vs Pfizer CEO Ian Read on Drug Prices”; http://sco.lt/9CRiEr). Schleifer famously got into a public shouting match with Pfizer’s chief executive at a health care conference last fall as he railed against yearly price increases for old drugs (“Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read???”; http://sco.lt/8ZED0T).

 

  1. Will the president of Stanford explain why he needs taxpayers to pay the light bill in his labs?

 

  1. Will Trump’s guests dare to bring up the NIH budget?

 

  1. Will Trump promise miracles?

 

  1. Will the talk turn to cash stashed abroad?

 

At least one of the companies represented at the meeting — Celgene — has a lot of money stashed overseas: $6.1 billion, to be exact.

 

President Trump has talked about giving companies in that situation a big tax break if they bring their wealth back to US shores. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently said he’s working with Congress to come up with a “very competitive” plan for repatriating the money. But no details have been released.

 

The industry has promised that a tax break would help them create thousands of American jobs. But last time they got such a tax break, it didn’t pan out that way. Instead, drug makers used the tens of billions they brought back to the US in the mid-2000s to enrich their CEOs and drive up their stock prices. They also laid off thousands of workers.

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