America is great, unless you get sick. This is a common remark that most people in the US firmly believe. The pharmaceutical companies are notorious for destroying lives rather than to save them due to their exorbitant price tags. Now, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has vowed to change the pharmaceutical price gouging of the American people so that people do not have to choose between their mortgage payment, owning a car, eating dinner or buying outlandishly priced prescription drugs.
The Current Pricing Structure
According to a PEW research study, Americans spent roughly $477 billion on prescription drugs in 2016. This is a 30 percent increase since 2012. From 2008 to 2014, Big Pharma brands increased 127 percent. Despite pharmaceutical companies making billions in profits from the 60 percent of Americans who use them each year, they increased pricing again this year by 10 percent, and they plan to continue to do so due to the necessity of their products to live. Pricing varies from state to state as well from pharmacy to pharmacy. And cost varies greatly based on a number of factors. You might only pay $15 for an average medication; however, if you need an EpiPen, you might have to pay more than $600 so you or a loved one does not die during an allergic reaction.
The US Versus The World
Americans pay more for medications than anywhere else in the world. Pricing is often 3 times as much as in the UK and 16 times more than in India for the exact same prescription drugs. It is illegal in most countries to advertise medications. In many countries, doctors will not even prescribe drugs until the patient meets with a nutritionist to change their diet and to drink specific types of tea to fight an illness holistically. And, in most countries, doctors and other medical professionals are not allowed to take incentives or financial kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for promoting their drugs. In most countries, proper health care is a right rather than a luxury, and far more importance in placed on medical ethics and what is best for the patient rather than the doctor or medical facility.
Counterfeit drugs are extremely dangerous and rising in popularity among criminals. People can be easily fooled by these highly sophisticated fake drugs. They are often manufactured outside of the US and sold as less expensive brand-name prescription drugs. These counterfeits have a tragic effect on human lives and the economy. People fall prey to this scheme because of the significantly reduced price tag over the actual drug. They are also easily accessible online which is difficult to regulate. While some counterfeits may be close representations, they often lack essential active ingredients required to be effective. It is those active ingredients that cost more money. Without those ingredients, drugs are worthless.
Why Are Prescriptions So Expensive?
The primary reason prescription drugs in the US are so expensive is that pharmaceutical companies are allowed to establish their own pricing. In other countries, pricing is established by both the government and the pharmaceutical company through strict regulatory measures. This is greatly lacking in the US. They get away with it because the US people will pay the prices. In other countries, people would never pay the outrageous price tags simply because they may not even earn that much in a year. The government also protects certain drugs so that they cannot be manufactured as a generic drug. Such competition would greatly reduce the price, help millions and save lives. And, once a generic brand is introduced, the FDA takes up to four years before approving its use for consumption.
Doctors and other medical professionals can legally accept incentives and kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. Regulations were put in place to limit the number of incentives these health professionals are able to accept, and under the Obamacare Act, doctors must report any incentives they have been awarded that are $10 or more. To get around the financial incentive restrictions, pharmaceutical companies will now hire doctors as consultants or to speak at events for a generous fee to the doctor. Doctors claim that these incentives do not persuade their decisions; however, this is highly unlikely, according to many medical reports. While some doctors jump at the opportunity for the financial kickbacks, many others find it to be unethical. In fact, some organizations will not allow their personnel to have meetings with or accept anything from a pharmaceutical company.
The Trump Medicare Proposal and Alex Azar
The Trump administration and Alex Azar are working to make medications far more affordable, and Big Pharma is not happy. Under Medicare, patients are paying almost twice as much as people pay for the same drugs in other developed nations. The government has given Medicare the power to make pricing the same as in other countries. It is estimated that this new pricing structure will save the American people $17 billion in taxes within 5 years not to mention the billions saved on drug costs to consumers and insurance companies. It is expected that the new pricing model will take effect in 2020. Both President Trump and Alex Azar are working to bring fair medication pricing to the US people rather than the current model where Americans pay more so people in other countries can pay less.
Big Pharma has a difficult fight on their hands with the power of the Trump administration and the Health and Human Services Secretary hammering down new policies to bring fair pricing to the American people and their prescription medications. Slowly, with the help of these changes, the healthcare industry is starting to work for the average American rather than only benefiting the wealthy.