On Tuesday, top representatives of pharmaceutical companies are coming before Congress and they will be challenged about their high drug prices. The New York Times has editorialized on the need to confront them about the high prices such as the rapid escalation in the price of insulin which has been on the market for a century. Certainly, they can’t cite research and development costs to drive up the price to $1500 per vial.
As the Times noted in today’s editorial, “A vial of insulin that cost less than $200 a decade ago now sells for closer to $1,500. Actimmune, a drug that treats malignant osteoporosis and sells for less than $350 for a one-month supply in Britain, costs $26,000 for a one-month supply in the United States. And the prices of many drugs — that treat cancers, high blood pressure, allergies and more — have risen so much that average consumers are rationing them, at grave peril. Not even experts seem to know how those prices are set or why they keep rising.”
The drug companies have traditionally justified their high prices by citing these research and development costs. Now, though, they seem to believe they should be entitled to charge what they determine the cost of averted health care costs, such as hospitalizations or even the value of extended health and life. That’s what their exorbitant prices represent. Imagine if Jonas Salk believed that. He didn’t. Congress has to return to promoting and protecting the public health of all Americans and ensuring costs are affordable certainly for basic drugs like insulin.
The day of reckoning is coming with Big Pharma as members of both parties in Congress are introducing bills that would increase competition and even use international pricing as a factor in determining prices here. Other bills even promote the government producing key drugs. With all the talk about some liberal Democrats pushing democratic socialism, this is one area where most people wouldn’t mind a little more government control.