Many of us have long believed that the high drug prices in this country can be blamed on the government for allowing Big Pharma to have a monopoly, and now a Harvard study has admitted that this is indeed the main cause of this increasingly serious problem.
The paper, which is entitled The High Cost of Prescription Drugs in the United States: Origins and Prospects for Reform, sought to uncover the origins of the country’s high drug prices and look into the effects caused by these prohibitive costs in order to help develop policy options that could help rein them in.
It was authored by Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Jerry Avorn and Dr. Aaron Kesselheim along with jurist Ameet Sarpatwari. They examined peer-reviewed health policy and medical literature dealing with the sources of drug prices in the country over the past decade. They found that per capita spending on prescription drugs in America is the highest in the world, with the figure for Americans more than double the average of 19 other industrialized countries.
While many Americans are willing to accept the free market concept of high drug prices being related to the high costs of testing, studying and getting approvals in theory, it turns out that development isn’t really the main driving force behind the price. Instead, the report notes:
Although prices are often justified by the high cost of drug development, there is no evidence of an association between research and development costs and prices; rather, prescription drugs are priced in the United States primarily on the basis of what the market will bear.
The authors add that market exclusivity stemming from legal protection against competition provided by the government is the single most important factor allowing Big Pharma to set these ridiculous prices. Such regulatory exclusivity is granted upon gaining FDA approval.
Government is the main culprit, but doctors are making matters worse
They also point out that doctors who prescribe pricey medications when cheaper alternatives exist are contributing to the problem. This is another issue that needs to be addressed, as pharmaceutical companies have become quite crafty at providing kickbacks to doctors who peddle their wares.
Mainstream media not prepared to point fingers at the government
It’s interesting to note that on the occasions when the mainstream media does point out the exorbitant fees charged by Big Pharma – like the outrage over the EpiPen’s recent astronomical price rise – they fail to mention that the reason that they can get away with doing so is the support they get from our government.
The paper points to the case of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which managed to raise the price of its toxoplasmosis medication, Daraprim, by 5500 percent, jumping from $13.50 to $750 per pill last year. The medication did not have patent protection, but because no other competing manufacturers were licensed to market this particular drug in America, the company could get away with setting the price however it see fit.
The authors offer some suggestions regarding how the situation can be alleviated, but it’s not something the government is likely to embrace or get on board with any time soon. They propose putting more stringent requirements in place for obtaining exclusivity rights and boosting competition by making sure generic drugs can be made available in a timely manner, among other approaches.
With the prices of medication being so high and the side effects giving many individuals pause, it’s no surprise that people are increasingly turning natural health options such as vitamins, turmeric, and exercise to help avoid getting sick in the first place. As pill prices continue to climb, people are increasingly realizing that they simply cannot afford to get sick in this country.
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