Prescription drugs Archives — Protect Our Care

SHOT/CHASER: Health Company CEOs Made More Than $600 Million Last Year While Skyrocketing Drug Prices Force Americans to Forgo their Medications

SHOT: Health Company CEOs Earned Upwards of $600 Million In 2018. “The CEOs of 23 prominent health care companies earned more than $632 million in 2018…” [Axios, 3/20/19]

CHASER: Drug Pricing is a Deadly National Scandal. “As many as one in every five Americans are trying to cope with Big Pharma’s morally indefensible pricing schemes by leaving prescriptions unfilled, skipping doses or splitting pills. Such desperate economies, coupled with unwitting failure to take medications properly, are said to contribute to some 125,000 deaths every year and as much as $289 billion in additional health costs.” [South Florida Sun Sentinel, 3/19/19]

SOTU PREVIEW: Five Ways The Trump Administration Has Continued To Sabotage Americans’ Health Care Since The Midterms

In November, voters took to the polls and sent a clear message to GOP leaders: end the Republican war on health care. National exit polls showed health care was the top issue to voters, and exit polls of competitive districts found Democrats had an eight point advantage on health care, 52 to 44 percent. Thirty-three members of Congress who voted to repeal the ACA lost their seats.

Despite voters’ clear rejection of the GOP sabotage agenda, President Trump has continued to ruthlessly target Americans’ health care. Here’s a look at five ways he has ignored the will of the American people and taken aim at health care since this fall’s midterm elections:

  1. Just Last Week, President Trump Admitted That He Supports The Goal Of The Lawsuit Led By Republican Attorneys General And Governors To Completely “Terminate” The Affordable Care Act. Trump predicted the Affordable Care Act would be “terminated” through the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. In December, cherry-picked Federal Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of twenty conservative states to overturn the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for 17 million people and ripping away the ACA’s vital consumer protections such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  2. In January, Experts Blamed Trump Administration Sabotage for Driving The Uninsured Rate To Its Highest Level Since The Implementation Of The Affordable Care Act In 2014. Thanks to GOP sabotage, the uninsured rate surged to its highest level since 2014. Roughly seven million fewer people are estimated to have health care now than did two years ago.
  3. In Its Notice Of Benefit And Payment Parameters, The Centers For Medicare And Medicaid Services Actually Proposed Changes That Would Make Consumers Pay More. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed changes to the ACA’s benefit and payment parameters would reduce premium tax credits by $1 billion per year, cause 100,000 people to lose marketplace coverage starting in 2020, increase annual premiums, and increase the out-of-pocket maximum for people with employer-sponsored health care.
  4. The Trump Administration Just Gave PhRMA a Big Win After The Pharmaceutical Industry Spent $280 Million On Lobbying In 2018. In a win for big Pharma, the Trump administration proposed changes to the rebate system that would raise premiums, benefit pharmaceutical companies, and contain no mandate to lower list prices of prescription drugs.
  5. After The Midterm Elections, The Trump Administration Urged States To Allow Federal Subsidies To Be Used To Purchase Junk Plans That Discriminate Against People With Pre-existing Conditions. The Trump administration issued new guidance urging states to “tear down basic pillars of the Affordable Care Act, demolishing a basic rule” that federal subsidies can only be used to purchase ACA-compliant plans. Experts warn against this move, saying it will push affordable, comprehensive care further out of reach for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Shot/Chaser: Trump’s the Reason Drug Prices are Going Up

SHOT: On May 30, Trump promised that pharmacutical companies would voluntarily make big price cuts in “two weeks.” We’re still waiting, and in fact drug prices have gone up, as Trump acknowledged today:  

CHASER: Trump’s the reason drug prices going up so significantly.


After Trump Promised Prescription Drug Price Cuts, They Go Way Up

Just over a month ago, President Trump promised to lower drug prices.

MAY 30 2018 –

Bloomberg: Trump Says Drug Companies to Unveil Price Cuts in Two Weeks

“Major pharmaceutical companies will announce ‘voluntary, massive’ cuts in drug prices in two weeks, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, without providing details. ‘We’re also working very hard at getting the cost of medicine down, and I think people are going to start to see for the first time ever in this country a major drop in the cost of prescription drugs,’ Trump said while signing legislation making it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs.”

How’s that going?

JULY 2, 2018 –

Financial Times reports several U.S. drugmakers have raised their prices significantly:

  • The smoking cessation drug Chantix ”has gone up 17 percent this year.”
  • The multiple sclerosis drug Ampyra has been raised 9.5 percent, “taking a bottle of 60 to more than $3,000.”
  • The liver medication Ocaliva has been raised “7 percent to $263.48 per pill or nearly $8,000 for a pack of 30”

Read the Financial Times story here.

Trump Drug ‘Plan’ Could Punish Seniors With Cancer

Washington, D.C. – After new research from Avalere and a CBS News investigation exposed the dangers seniors with cancer could face under the Trump Administration’s drug pricing blueprint, Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse said:

“The Administration has no answers on how its proposed changes to Medicare would protect seniors from prohibitively high out-of-pocket costs for specialized cancer treatment. This is more proof that the Trump Administration’s drug pricing ‘plan’ is a day late and a dollar short. Americans are already worried enough about rising health care costs; let’s not find new ways for the Trump Administration to make care more expensive.”

A tricky wrinkle in Trump’s Medicare Rx “Blueprint”

CBS News // Walecia Konrad // May 22, 2018

The Trump administration’s “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce patient costs made one thing clear: The government will not directly negotiate with drug companies to secure lower prescription prices. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t proposing changes that would dramatically alter the way Medicare pays for some of the most expensive drugs, and in the process, potentially raise out-of-pocket costs for some of the country’s sickest patients.

A cornerstone of the Trump plan calls for all Medicare drug payments to be consolidated under Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan for Medicare enrollees administered by private insurers. Under Part D, insurers and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate with drug companies for discounted prices in exchange for the drug companies’ products being included in the PBMs’ list of covered drugs.  

But drugs intravenously administered in physicians’ offices, such as chemotherapy and vaccines, are usually covered as a medical treatment under Medicare Part B. Physicians buy these drugs directly from manufacturers, and Medicare reimburses doctors for the drugs’ average sales price plus 6 percent.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary and former president of the U.S. division of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (LLY), has been touting the move to consolidate Medicare drug payments during several public appearances since he and President Trump unveiled the Blueprint earlier this month. Azar and other proponents of the plan point out that the 6 percent markup included in Medicare Part B creates incentives for doctors to purchase more expensive drugs to get a higher dollar profit. Better, said Azar, for insurance companies and PBMs in Medicare Part D to negotiate discounts and lower prices.

Pharmaceutical companies are against the idea, partly because they generally are paid more under Part B than Part D. “Bringing negotiation to Part B drugs is such a potent way to bring down prices that PhRMA is already protesting the idea,” Azar said in a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he referred to the drug industry trade group called Pharmacuetical Research and Manufacturers.

But Azar and others have shed little light on exactly how this change would take place, leaving patients worried about the potential for astronomically higher out-of-pocket costs.  

Sky-high co-pays?

“If they shift Medicare Part B medicines to Medicare Part D without making any changes in the Part D structure, it will have a horrible effect on patients,” said David Mitchell, president and founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs. Mitchell, who’is currently undergoing cancer treatment, noted that he and most cancer patients with Medicare Part B have supplemental insurance that covers out-of-pocket costs, including drug co-pays, incurred under Medicare Part B insurance.

Mitchell points to his own regimen of cancer drugs, which adds up to about $23,000 each time he visits the infusion clinic. He pays $2,100 a year for a supplemental policy that covers his Part B co-payments. Medicare Part D recipients are not eligible to buy supplemental prescription drug insurance.

If his drugs were to fall under Medicare Part D, Mitchell explained that he would quickly pay enough in out-of-pocket co-pays to fall into a category called catastrophic coverage. Once in that category, Mitchell would pay 5 percent of his drug costs, which he estimates would equal about $15,000 in a year’s time. “That’s a completely unaffordable amount,” he said.

An analysis released Monday from health care consultants Avalere Health backs up Mitchell’s point. In 2016, average out-of-pocket costs were about 33 percent higher for Part D-covered new cancer therapies than for those covered in Part B. “Medicare beneficiaries typically have lower out-of-pocket costs in Part B — especially since so many seniors carry supplemental coverage,” said Richard Kane, senior director at Avalere, in a press release. “Any proposal for shifting drugs to Part D needs to account for these differences.”  

Logistical problems

“Having a doctor purchase, mix and handle the infusion of a drug is a completely different medical experience than going to the pharmacy and picking up a bottle of pills,” said Marc Samuels, founder of ADVI Health and former White House health policy adviser for President George H.W. Bush. Cancer treatments and other physician-administered drugs are complicated and personalized, often changing from week to week or even day to day depending on the patient’s reaction to the drugs.  

Patients and physicians are wondering how the actual delivery of drugs would work. “I heard someone say that I’d have to go to the pharmacy to pick up my drugs then bring them to the infusion center,” Mitchell of Patients for Affordable Drugs said. “That isn’t going to work.”

What’s more, Samuels argued that the 6 percent markup that doctors receive under Medicare Part B isn’t as profitable as it may sound.  Doctors purchase these expensive drugs then often have to discard them because the patient has serious side effects or needs a different drug for another reason. “The 6 percent is designed to help cover that cost,” Samuels said.

For now the Trump administration isn’t disclosing any details about how this part of its Blueprint would work. “I’m hoping,” said Mitchell, “we can work with the administration to find a way to allow negotiations to take place without harming patients.”

“The Health Industry Appears Unfazed”: President Trump’s Phony Prescription Drug Speech Not Getting Better with Age

President Trump’s widely-panned prescription drug pricing speech continues to earn poor reviews for choosing big drug companies over everyday Americans. The early reviews of the speech were not kind, with headlines ranging from “Looks Nothing Like What He Promised” to “Lets Drug Companies Off the Hook,” and they haven’t let up. As HHS Secretary Alex Azar attempts to cover the Administration’s tracks with his own speech this morning, here are some late-breaking headlines about Trump’s tone-deaf speech:

Washington Post: Trump’s drug price retreat adds to list of abandoned populist promises

Washington Post: The health industry appears unfazed by Trump’s drug pricing speech

Bloomberg: Drug Industry Dodges Its Worst Fears in Trump’s Plan to Lower Prices

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Experts say Trump’s prescription to reduce drug prices is not what the doctor ordered

PharmTech: Trump Drug Pricing Plan Outlines Rule Changes Pharma Can Live With

Fox News: Trump’s new prescription drug plan is incomplete — here are two ways to make it better

STAT News: Trump promised to bring pharma to justice. His speech sent drug stocks soaring

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News: Trump prescription plan doesn’t include Medicare-negotiated pricing

The American Prospect: To Bring Drug Prices Down, Trump Proposes — Nothing, Really

Fortune: Why Trump’s Big Drug Price Speech Sent Health Care Stocks Soaring

“Big Pharma Gets A Big Win”: Trump’s Phony Prescription Drug Speech By the Headlines

Yesterday, President Trump once again choose big drug companies over everyday Americans. His plan broke his promise to do the one thing that would lower prices for tens of millions, allow Medicare to negotiate for a fair price, and its clear winners were the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies, which saw their stock prices surge after his remarks. Here’s how it was covered, by the headlines:

Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Plan to Cut Drug Prices Leaves Industry Relieved

Bloomberg: Trump’s ‘Sweeping’ Drug-Price Plan Comes Up Short

Reuters: RPT-Trump plan for drug prices seen largely sparing industry

Huffington Post: Trump’s Plan On Prescription Drug Prices Looks Nothing Like What He Promised

Associated Press: President Trump’s Plan to Lower Drug Prices Spares Pharma Industry

Yahoo Finance: Trump lets drug companies off the hook

The Atlantic: Big Pharma Gets a Big Win From Trump

Washington Examiner: Big Pharma largely unscathed by Trump’s drug-price crackdown

Bio Pharma Dive: Pharma breathes easy as Trump’s drug pricing plan fizzles

Chicago Tribune: Trump’s plan to reduce drug prices doesn’t include campaign pledge to allow Medicare to negotiate prices

Endpoints News: Trump’s ‘sweeping action’ to lower drug prices mocked by analysts as relieved investors trigger rally in Big Pharma stocks

Vice: Trump Officially Backed Out of His Own Plan to Make Drugs Cheaper

Kaiser Health News: Trump Vows (Again) To Lower Drug Prices But Skeptics Doubt Much Will Change

Investor’s Business Daily: Biopharma Stocks Fly As Trump Speech Seen As ‘More Bark Than Bite’

San Francisco Chronicle: Editorial: Trump’s new drug price strategy won’t change the status quo

New York Daily News: Our opinion: Trump’s bitter pill: His prescription drug plan is weak in one of the most important areas

New Senate Report: GOP Tax Bill Benefits Drug Companies While Americans Pay More

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a major report confirming that none of the country’s ten biggest pharmaceutical companies have used any of their windfall from the GOP tax scam to lower drug prices for consumers, instead passing those benefits along to wealthy executives and shareholders. Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“From the moment the GOP’s tax scam proposal became public, the majority of Americans knew it was designed to enrich the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations at the expense of everyday Americans and our health care, and today’s Senate report confirms it. Americans already pay a higher price for prescription drugs than consumers around the world, and big pharmaceutical companies have refused to lift a finger to provide relief from crippling prices. It’s outrageous that drug company executives are choosing to further line their own pockets instead of addressing the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, and it’s even further proof that the Republican tax bill was never intended to help ordinary Americans, and that it is only making health care more expensive for hardworking American families.”

New Data: GOP Cries Crocodile Tears on Prescription Drugs as Big Pharma Reaps Rewards

Washington, DC – Axios is reporting that America’s largest pharmaceutical companies are using their windfall from the GOP tax scam to drive up their own stock prices to the tune of $50 billion, “a sum that towers over investments in employees or drug research and development.” Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse responded:

“Every day millions of Americans struggle to afford their prescription drugs, too often being forced to choose between their medication and a meal. But while they cry crocodile tears over the cost of prescription drugs, President Trump and the GOP are giving Big Pharma an even bigger windfall through their tax bill. This isn’t about patients, it’s about profits.

“Everywhere you look, you can find Republicans voting to raise prescription drug costs, from the health care repeal that would get rid of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit to confirming a Big Pharma executive who let drug prices skyrocket to lead HHS. Now, it turns out, their tax plan is enriching Big Pharma at patients’ expense.

“It’s time for President Trump and his allies in Congress to work for patients instead of profiteers. Enough is enough – it’s time for Republicans to stop making health care more expensive.”

Pharma’s $50 billion tax windfall for investors

Axios // Bob Herman // February 22, 2018

The pharmaceutical industry is using a large portion of its windfall from Republicans’ corporate tax cuts to boost its stock prices. Nine drug companies are spending a combined $50 billion on new share buyback programs, a sum that towers over investments in employees or drug research and development.

The bottom line: All of those buybacks were announced during or after the passage of the Republican tax bill. That money is enriching hedge funds, other Wall Street investors and top drug company executives, but it isn’t necessarily helping patients.

That’s not all: Some drug companies also increased quarterly dividends following the tax overhaul. For example, AbbVie increased its cash dividend by 35% while at the same time committing to a new $10 billion share repurchase program.

  • Dividends dole out cash to existing investors, and share buybacks boost a company’s stock price by making shares scarcer.
  • The new tax law, which slashed the corporate tax rate and made it easier for companies to repatriate overseas cash, has made dividends and share buybacks quick and appealing options.
  • Several drug company buybacks are a lot larger than prior share repurchase programs.
  • Stock returns help people with 401k retirement accounts, but they mostly benefit wealthy investors and executives. And half of U.S. households don’t own any stock.

The big picture: The large buyback programs are rolling out while the same pharmaceutical companies raise drug prices and while Americans struggle to afford their prescriptions.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main drug industry trade group, referred share buyback questions to employer groups.