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Mitch Harle

State of Broken Promises: Trump’s Talk is Cheap, but Prescription Drug Prices Aren’t

Washington DC — If past is prologue, tonight President Trump will once again pay lip service to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs, just as he did in last year’s State of the Union address. If the past year proves anything, it’s that President Trump’s talk is cheap but prescription drug prices remain sky high. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in anticipation of more broken promises from Trump tonight on prescription drugs:

“One year ago, Donald Trump promised the American people he would ‘substantially’ lower prescription drugs prices and threw the gauntlet down by adding emphatically ‘watch.’ We did watch, Mr. President, and a year later prescription drug prices are still sky high. The president continues to renege on his campaign promise to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, and his administration has put forward a plan on rebates that has been called a gift to Big Pharma. The only ‘substantial’ thing this President has done on health care in the last year is to engage in a relentless war on American health care administratively, in Congress, and in the courts. And if anyone believes some teleprompter-delivered promise from President Trump tonight on reducing the cost of prescription drugs, send them my way: I have some beachfront property in Arizona for sale.”

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS ALL TALK ON DRUG PRICES, BUT NO ACTION:

Drug Prices Continue to Soar Under Trump. A report by Senate Democrats finds that the prices of the 20 most-prescribed drugs under Medicare Part D have increased substantially over the past five years, rising 10 times faster than inflation. Another report from the Pharmacy Benefits Consultants finds that drug prices soared over the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency, during which 20 prescription drugs saw list-price increases of more than 200 percent. In 2018, there were about 1,800 prescription drug price increases according to data compiled by 46brooklyn Research. This year already, Pharma giants Pfizer and Novartis have raised prices on dozens of drug.

Trump Installed Big Pharma Executives In Key Administration Posts. President Trump installed a former Eli Lily executive, Alex Azar, as his secretary of Health and Human Services and his appointment of Scott Gottlieb at FDA was described as “music to pharma’s ears.” Other pharma lobbyists writing Trump’s health policy include senior adviser at FDA, Keagan Lenihan, who joined the administration after lobbying for the drug distribution giant McKesson, former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, who reviews health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Lance Leggitt, who has lobbied for a variety of drug-industry clients.

Trump’s Proposals Always Fall Far Short Of His Promises. President Trump promised that he would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate drug prices directly with suppliers, but after meeting with pharmaceutical executives early in 2017, Trump abandoned that pledge, calling it “price fixing” that would hurt “smaller, younger companies.” The planned announcement to move some drugs from Medicare Part B, in which pharmaceuticals are purchased and administered by medical providers, to Part D, will do little to restrain the cost of prescription drugs for America’s seniors and falls far short of Trump’s promises.

Republican Health Care Sabotage Makes Prescription Drugs More Expensive For Millions. The Trump Administration wants to let states sell junky short-term health plans that skirt Affordable Care Act requirements. Typical short-term policies do not cover prescription drugs or maternity care, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits. Not only that, but short term plans result in higher costs for people enrolled in full coverage plans as well as soaring premiums.

… WHILE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES ARE RAKING IT IN

Pharmaceutical Companies Have Reaped Huge Benefits From The Trump Tax Bill. The Trump tax scam means billions of dollars in tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. An Axios study found that 21 health care companies collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings during 2018 alone. Most of the tax break windfall for health care companies is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt. According to Axios, nine pharmaceutical companies are are spending a combined $50 billion on new share buyback programs. All of the buybacks were announced during or after passage of the tax bill. Some drug companies are also increasing dividends for shareholders, with AbbVie increasing its cash dividend by 35 percent while also announcing a new $10 billion share repurchase program.

Massive Profits And Price Increases. Pharmaceutical companies raked in more than $30 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, with Pfizer alone bringing in $4.1 billion — the highest of any publicly traded healthcare company. Of the 19 companies that tallied at least $1 billion of third-quarter profit, 14 were drug companies.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices. In January 2019 alone, Pfizer and Novartis announced price increases on dozens of drugs, including increasing the cost of a breast cancer medication to $12,000 for 21 pills.  All in all, nearly 30 drugmakers are expected to raise prices in 2019.  

Soaring CEO Pay. According to an Axios study, the CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. health care companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion since 2010. CEOs took home nearly 11 percent more money on average every year since 2010 — far more than the wage growth of nearly all other workers. In 2017 alone, 30 health care executives made a combined $976 million.

Protect Our Care Statement On World Cancer Day

Washington DC — Today, the world comes together once again to recognize World Cancer Day. As we unite our voices to raise awareness, we also call on the Administration to end their attacks on pre-existing conditions and affordable comprehensive health care for cancer patients and survivors. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“Sadly, cancer has devastated the lives of millions of Americans and has left many wondering how they’ll access and pay for their life-saving care. Over the past two years, President Trump has worked nonstop to sabotage protections for coverage for pre-existing conditions, making life even more difficult for cancer patients and survivors.  The GOP lawsuit to “terminate” the ACA is President Trump’s latest attempt to roll back the clock and strip Americans of their health care. If this misguided ruling isn’t overturned, Republicans will succeed in striking down the ACA and gutting key protections for millions of Americans. On this World Cancer Day, Trump and his Republican allies ought to end their war on pre-existing conditions and instead put their efforts into fighting the war on cancer.”

Background:

  • As Outlined In An Amicus Brief Written By The American Cancer Society, The Affordable Care Act Has Increased Cancer Patients’ Access To Potentially Life-Saving Health Care. However, the ACA greatly improved this situation.  After the ACA was enacted, the uninsured rate among nonelderly patients with newly diagnosed cancer declined substantially, especially among low-income people who resided in Medicaid expansion states—where it decreased 6 percent. This increase in coverage affects health outcomes—a small but statistically significant shift was found toward early-stage diagnosis for colorectal, lung, female breast, and pancreatic cancer and melanoma in patients in expansion states. Similarly, the ACA coverage expansion for dependent children up to age 26 has increased the insurance coverage rate among that population, had positive effect on initiation and completion of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, early diagnosis and receipt of fertility-sparing treatments for cervical cancer, and increased early-stage diagnosis for total cancer and osseous and chondromatous neoplasms among young adults 19 to 25 years old. The proportion of cancer survivors reporting delayed or forgone care and inability to afford health care services also significantly decreased during implementation of the ACA from 2010 to 2016. Overall, the uninsured rate for cancer survivors decreased from 12.4 percent (pre-full ACA implementation, 2012) to 7.7 percent (post-full ACA implementation, 2015).” [American Cancer Society, 6/14/18]
  • Similarly, The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion Has Helped Cancer Patients See Increased Coverage For Care. “The number of uninsured cancer patients dropped in both expanded and non-expanded states from 2011 to 2014, but expansion states experienced a steeper decline. In expanded states, the uninsured rate declined a relative 52 percent, from 4.4 to 2.1 percent while Medicaid enrollment rose from 15.2 to 18.0 percent (p < 0.0001). In non-expansion states, the uninsured rate dropped a relative five percent (8.4 to 8.0 percent).”  [American Society For Radiation Oncology, 9/25/17]
  • In Kentucky, Medicaid Expansion Was Associated With Earlier Diagnosis And Somewhat Improved Breast Cancer Care. “The expansion of Kentucky Medicaid in 2014 has been associated with earlier diagnosis and somewhat improved quality of breast cancer care, despite a stable disease incidence. Additional improvements in treatment expediency will require improvements in patient outreach and healthcare infrastructure.” [Journal of the American College of Surgeons, April 2018]

Shot/Chaser: Big Pharma Spends More On Lobbying Than Any Other Industry, Gets Rewarded With “Win” In Drug Rebate Proposal

Shot/Chaser: Big Pharma Spends More On Lobbying Than Any Other Industry, Gets Rewarded With “Win” In Drug Rebate Proposal

Big Pharma’s big spending in the last year is paying off with a new Trump administration proposal:

SHOT: Pharmaceutical Industry Spent More On Lobbying In 2018 Than Any Other Industry. Open Secrets issued a report showing that the pharmaceutical industry spent almost $280 million on lobbying in 2018, “with no other industry coming close” in terms of spending.

CHASER: “One Thing That Is Pretty Certain: Pharma Wins.” The Trump administration rolled out a new drug rebate proposal last Thursday, with Axios’ analysis concluding that it would just be another win for Big Pharma, with “no mandate to lower” drug prices for Americans.

New Trump Rule on Drug Rebates is Just a Gift to Big Pharma

Washington, DC– Yesterday, the Trump administration proposed a rule to the drug rebate system that they falsely claimed would help consumers and lower drug prices. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“This administration’s plan  – another multi-billion dollar giveaway to the big drug companies – will raise Medicare premiums with zero guarantees that it will lower costs for patients. Meanwhile, the administration opposes what really needs to happen — end drug company price gouging on everyday drugs like insulin that millions of Americans rely on, and let Medicare directly negotiate with drug companies to truly lower prices. With a former pharmaceutical executive running HHS, it’s no surprise the administration continues to side with big drug companies and ignore the needs of patients and older Americans.”