Rules

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - Jo­dine May­berry is a re­tired ed­i­tor, long­time jour­nal­ist and Delaware County res­i­dent. Her col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Fri­day. You can reach her at jodine­may­berry@ com­cast.net.

Big Pharma moans and groans about its high re­search and de­vel­op­ment costs, but much of those costs are borne by uni­ver­si­ties or star­tups that live or die on the suc­cess or fail­ure of one drug.

If a startup suc­ceeds, the big com­pa­nies gob­ble it up, or the univer­sity hands them the patent and they en­joy 20 years of mo­nop­oly sales.

The drug man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors have count­less other ways to drum up de­mand for a drug and keep prices high.

For one thing, they le­gally bribe our law­mak­ers.

Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and med­i­cal de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers show­ered $29 mil­lion in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions on con­gres­sional can­di­dates in the 2016 elec­tion cycle, of which $23 mil­lion went to in­cum­bents, ac­cord­ing to Open Secrets.org.

In ad­di­tion, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have spent $84.7 mil­lion since the be­gin­ning of 2017 on lob­by­ing, Open Secrets says. Their 1,195 lob­by­ists amount to two lob­by­ists for ev­ery con­gress­man.

We don’t even know about un­reg­is­tered lob­by­ists/fix­ers/ pres­i­den­tial pals.

No­var­tis, the Swiss drug maker, may have wasted $1.2 mil­lion try­ing to get to Trump through his per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen, but to No­var­tis, that would be no more than a round­ing er­ror on its ex­pense sheet.

And the drug com­pa­nies le­gally or il­le­gally bribe our doc­tors.

Drug reps in­un­date doc­tors’ of­fices with free sam­ples to get the doc­tors to hook their pa­tients on the ex­pen­sive new drugs the pa­tients are ask­ing for be­cause of the TV ad­ver­tis­ing.

The reps buy lunch for staffers, send doc­tors to con­fer­ences in Hawaii or the Ba­hamas and get them tick­ets to sport­ing events.

Some com­pa­nies hire doc­tors as “con­sul­tants” to give talks en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pro­mot­ing their drugs at med­i­cal con­fer­ences, which in­flu­ences other doc­tors, and some just skip the speech-mak­ing re­quire­ment and just pay the doc­tors to keep on pre­scrib­ing the drug, on or off-la­bel.

Five “top doc­tors” were in­dicted in March for do­ing that very thing for In­sys Ther­a­peu­tics, a com­pany that man­u­fac­tures an FDAap­proved fen­tanyl spray for break­through pain for can­cer pa­tients.

Hmm, fen­tanyl, where have we read about that

lately?

On the TV ads, vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­pany prom­ises to help you pay for the drug if you just ask. “If you can’t af­ford it, As­tra -Zeneca can help.”

In the mean­time, in­sur­ers and phar­macy chains are mov­ing in to cut out those mys­te­ri­ous mid­dle­men, the pre­scrip­tion ben­e­fit man­agers, who help de­ter­mine the prices of drugs. CVS and Aetna merged in March to get a piece of that ac­tion.

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try is a com­pli­cated, mul­ti­lay­ered, snake­like mon­ster that, like Hy­dra, needs all its heads chopped off. But that won’t hap­pen. Congress won’t do it and Trump’s weak tea cost re­duc­tion plan cer­tainly won’t do it.

Just like any ef­fi­cient cap­i­tal­ists, the drug com­pa­nies get what the mar­ket will bear, and here in Amer­ica, where they can hype de­mand and prices ad in­fini­tum, the mar­ket will bear a lot.

Use your mute but­tons and stop ask­ing your doc­tor, peo­ple, it’s your only hope.

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