Vijay Das is the health policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, and today CNN published Congress, don’t fall for Big Pharma’s gimmick, his op-ed about how much the Big Pharma lobby is costing the American public.
“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli was labeled the “most hated man on the Internet” after he raised the price of an HIV/AIDs medication’s price by 5,000 percent.
His smug prioritization of profits over the people who are prescribed the medication brought to the forefront a conversation that has been happening over pharmacy lines and kitchen counters for years: what to do about the high cost of drugs. There has been an explosion of costs not only for new treatments, but also older medicines that work perfectly well. The high price of prescription drugs has affected the everyday choices of Americans as long as the corner drug store has existed.
It’s easy for me to read Vijay’s article and feel personally affronted – I still talk to my grandmother very often, and she anguishes over how expensive her blood pressure medication is. Thirty percent of Americans are known to skimp on their medicines in order to cut down on costs, but when life-or-death medications are out of reach, the public starts to speak up.
Rather than simply charging less, the industry is pushing for watered-down safeguards it claims will lower development costs and get patented drugs to market sooner and cheaper. It will deploy 1,200 lobbyists to try to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and will have its companion bill introduced in the Senate.
By Emma Stockton
Last month, The International AIDS Society’s conference in Vancouver came to a close with an announcement that gave the global AIDS community great hope. In 2011, The United Nations had set a goal of treating 15 million people by 2015. That goal, once thought unrealistic, was reached 9 months early. Now more than 15 million people around the world living with HIV are receiving treatment.
On July 14, the United Nations announced the laudable goal of ending AIDS by 2030. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030 is ambitious, but realistic, as the history of the past 15 years has shown.”
One major contingency for this goal that must be addressed is access to treatment. We have conclusive evidence that starting antiretroviral treatment as soon as a patient is diagnosed with HIV is proven to vastly improve patients’ health outcomes and prevent future transmission. We also know of a French teen born infected with HIV who received treatment until age 6 and has been virus free for twelve years. This is the first confirmed long term remission for a child born with HIV.
However, despite the need to start treatment at diagnosis to be most effective, currently we are essentially rationing out ARVs to the sickest people because of their exorbitantly high cost. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), more than half of the 37 million people living with HIV are not receiving treatment.
No one can dispute that multidrug-resistant “superbugs” are a key public health concern for the 21st century. Better, safe and effective cures are needed. But the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that will be voted on this week in the House, is not the solution to this problem.
Over 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths. New antibiotics have been slow in coming: No antibiotic with a truly novel mechanism of action has been discovered since the late 1980s. Yet this drought is not the fault of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has long been under tremendous pressure to approve new antibiotics quickly. This pressure was increased even further by a 2012 law that accelerated review for qualifying antibiotics.
Thanks to the current review process for antibiotics, clinical development for these drugs is already quick by industry standards. A new antibiotic takes only seven years to get to market, compared with nine years for cancer drugs.
Quick approval is not without costs. Many of the antibiotics approved over the past decade have suffered from safety and effectiveness problems. For example, tigecycline (Tygacil), an antibiotic that received special accelerated FDA approval in 2005, was slapped with a black-box warning in 2013 stating that the drug increases the risk of death.
By Andrew Gibson
This Saturday, our nation celebrates the 239th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This day should be used to reflect on the ideals and principles upon which this country was founded so as to remind us of the work still to be done in order to achieve goals enshrined in that all-important document.
The Declaration of Independence affirms America’s self-governance. It states that “governments […] derive[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and that all are treated equal under the law. As Public Citizen strives to ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power, our members and supporters should keep the founders’ philosophy in mind as we celebrate America’s birthday with our family and friends.