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U.S. News & World Report: We Can Make Medicine Affordable

Commonsense fixes to Medicare and FDA drug approval can lower the cost of lifesaving drugs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By Dr. Jonathan Fielding 

Whenever I am outside, I carry two EpiPens. If a bee stings me, the pens could save my life. I was recently stung, but not by a bee. The sting came from Mylan pharmaceuticals when it raised the retail price of a two pack of EpiPens from about $100 to more than $600 dollars over nine years. According to Money magazine, each EpiPen costs about $30 to produce.

I am lucky because my health insurance pays most of the cost of my EpiPens. But millions of Americans, both young and old, cannot benefit from this drug or others when the initial price or rapid price increase make them unaffordable. Even those with insurance coverage who do not use costly drugs still pay for them through rising premiums and co-pays.

List prices for all medicines are subject to various discounts and rebates often negotiated by insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, and the actual cost can be lower. But a study by Bloomberg found that even after discounts, we pay more in the U.S. for common medicines like Crestor (high cholesterol), Lantus (insulin), Advair (asthma), Januvia (diabetes), Humira (rheumatoid arthritis) and Herceptin (breast cancer) than in most other countries in the study, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, India, Russia, Morocco and several European countries.

Read the full op-ed from U.S. News & World Report