Soapbox

Drug companies pass the buck on price spikes

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, speaks about price hikes for EpiPens at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis on Aug. 24.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, speaks about price hikes for EpiPens at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis on Aug. 24. Associated Press

Each time a drug company jacks up the price for an important or even life-saving treatment, there is public outcry. A flurry of news stories hit the papers, lawmakers and candidates denounce the practice and patients and parents object. Each time, the culprit responds by turning a blind eye to the public’s objections and pretending there is no problem.

Instead of acknowledging that they set the prices, the pharmaceutical industry attempts to shift the conversation and blame other parties, including health insurers (“Rising drug prices the fault of insurers, not drug companies,” Viewpoints, Aug. 29).

But discounts and rebates, copays and deductibles and health insurance premiums reflect the prices set by the drug companies.

Let’s also not forget that the state of California pays the costs of these drugs for 13 million Medi-Cal recipients who don’t pay any co-pays or deductibles. State and local governments, school districts and pension plans such as CalPERS are grappling with the burden these price hikes are putting on their taxpayer-supported budgets.

New and better drugs are not the problem. The problem is pricing that appears to be detached from reality, especially since we know how little these same drugs cost in the rest of the world.

Appearances, of course, can be misleading. Drug manufacturers can clear up any misunderstanding by providing clear and compelling facts and data to back up their claims instead of smoke screens. Unfortunately they won’t do so voluntarily, and they resist efforts by lawmakers to bring transparency to their pricing.

It’s time to put up.

Charles Bacchi is president & CEO of the California Association of Health Plans. He can be contacted at info@calhealthplans.org.

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