American ingenuity and free markets can solve the problem of rising drug prices… if we allow it.

A couple of major threats to the health of the prescription drug supply chain are finally getting some long overdue attention.

  1. We are over-reliant on foreign production.

More than 90 percent of our prescription drugs are either manufactured in China or contain key ingredients that come from China, and China isn’t our best friend. Drugs on this Chinese-sourced list include antibiotics, birth control pills, cancer treatments, anti-depressants, statins (for high cholesterol), and HIV/AIDS drugs.

Why in the world are we outsourcing this mission-critical aspect of American medicine to countries hostile to our nation? (Not to mention the fact that countries like China are stoking the opioid epidemic by exporting deadly illicit Fentanyl to our shores).

Steve Jobs famously took the Obama administration to task over the main reason Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, instead of the U.S:  D.C. is not business-friendly and it is impossible to build a factory in the United States due to regulations and unnecessary costs.

https://www.businessinsider.com/president-obamas-lack-of-resolve-frustrated-steve-jobs-2011-10

Unfortunately instead of cutting the red tape, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and colleagues are proposing exactly the wrong solution to bringing drug production back to the US of A. Instead of unleashing the market forces that built America into the #1 economy in the world, Warren hopes to import the same policies that sank behemoths like the U.S.S.R. and helped ignite the dumpster fires consuming Venezuela and Cuba: nationalized takeover of production.

Even the most profitable industries are not immune to the destruction that government-run production can bring. Case and point: Nationalization has driven Venezuela from oil powerhouse into the poorhouse:

So let’s look for proven solutions instead of dooming the drug industry to a fate of greater drug shortages, stagnation, and even higher prices.

Yes, there is already a sea of red tape and failed policies standing between American patients and inexpensive drugs. Thankfully, unlike Senator Warren, the Trump administration’s FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb MD and HHS Secretary Alex Azar seem truly interested in getting to work cutting through it by unleashing competition not warmed over communism.

Which brings us to the second major threat to the supply chain that is getting some overdue sunshine:

2) Kickbacks to Group Purchasing Organization and Pharmacy Benefit Manager Middlemen.

According to nomiddlemen.org:

GPOs and PBMs are perpetrating “a dangerous and unethical game of ‘pay-to-play.’ It’s the dirty little secret behind the outrageous cost of medications and the shortages of many drug and medical supplies. Unfortunately, a law was passed that allows these medical market “middlemen” to accept kickback payments from drug and medical supply companies in exchange for exclusive sales contracts! It created a government-sanctioned system of racketeering that would be illegal in any other industry.

 

The FDA along with HHS have signaled a willingness to end the kickbacks. And since the beginning of 2019 Senator Susan Collins and the new Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley have also stated they are going to take a close look at these shameful business practices

https://www.collins.senate.gov/newsroom/senator-collins-urges-administration-prioritize-reducing-drug-prices

https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/commentary/grassley-top-priority-reducing-health-care-costs

Bottom line? American ingenuity can solve the problem of rising drug prices. If we will let it.

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Click and Comment to End Killer GPO/PBM Kickbacks

Co-Founder of Physicians Against Drug Shortages, Bob Campbell, writes:

Go to this site and click on the right button “Comment Now”
https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=HHSIG-2018-0002-0001

There are already a bunch of comments from PADS members and you are able to read them first for inspiration. Those representing organizations should also submit a comment on behalf of their organization’s membership.

I wrote the passage below and then added an attachment GPO/PBM Facts which is added here as an attachment. There are some great WSJ comments below too which may be an inspiration. I hope this makes it easy. Say who you are why you care and then cut and paste to your heart’s delight. Also you can just compose from the heart.

During our October 22 White House meeting I hope to have a “large number” of comments to get rid of the Middlemen Kickbacks. I will personally deliver a “click count” to the White House so lets aim to impress.

Best
Bob Campbell

Suggestions for Comments:

In my 29 year career in medicine I have witnessed the emergence of middlemen GPO/PBM Kickbacks. What began as a nuisance has become the largest cost driver in healthcare. HHS should formally recommend repeal of the GPO/PBM Safe Harbor. It is a policy that is long overdue. Independent analyses demonstrate 35%-47% of the consumer cost of drugs is used to fund kickbacks. These GPO and PBM contracts are highly guarded and kept secret for a reason. Repeal the Safe Harbor. Reduce costs and end deadly drug shortages.

Repeal the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) Kickback Safe Harbor {42 CFR § 1001.952(j)} and make the American healthcare system great again.

The GPO/PBM Middleman is the cartel responsible for spiraling healthcare costs, They are responsible for the unprecedented drug price spikes and dangerous, even fatal shortages that began in 2006. The GPO executives and there enablers are growing immeasurably rich in the process. Meanwhile the American people are facing escalating hospital costs. Americans can no longer afford health insurance or medications.
HHS OIG, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission are failing to intervene to restore a competitive healthcare supply chain. Congress has failed to confront the powerful businessmen who have criminalized the healthcare supply chain.
Eliminating kickbacks in the healthcare supply chain will save $30b-$90B per year based upon empiric published analyses.

What can saving these billions of dollars do?

Restore the drug marketplace so that inexpensive and available generic medications are once again available to patients.

Rejuvenate the moribund generic drug manufacturing industry in the United States with the creation of hundreds of new plants and tens of thousands of new high paying jobs for American workers.

Allow savings to the Medicare and Medicaid programs totaling $11.1B-$33.3B that would occur immediately with no reduction in health care delivery.

Restore competition in the purchasing of all healthcare supplies. Kickbacks create high prices and low supply. Competition creates low prices and abundant supply. Competition lowers prices and improves quality. Cartels inflate prices and diminish quality.

End dangerous drug shortages that sometimes hurt and sometimes kill patients
Ending the healthcare supply chain kickbacks are a required component of any remedy for the rising cost of healthcare. It is also a necessary step if we are to continue to improve the quality of healthcare in any and all healthcare delivery institutions across the country. The intersection of law, economics, and medicine is where the next chapter in improving patient safety and extending high quality health care to all citizens begins.

The anticompetitive healthcare supply chain should be replaced by one that omits the market allocation fees and vendor access kickbacks. It is a necessary and inevitable event. There is no pathway to affordable high quality healthcare until Medicine’s Mobster Middlemen are vanquished.

Letters to WSJ:

Drug Rebates Help Many, but Not Patients

Pharmacy-benefit managers that are middlemen to middlemen, two orders of magnitude between the consumer and producer.

Joseph Antos and James C. Capretta write in support of pharmacy-benefit managers (PBM) that are middlemen to middlemen, two orders of magnitude between the consumer and producer, with market discipline totally absent (“Drug Rebates Aren’t ‘Kickbacks’” (op-ed, Sept. 17). Certainly, in today’s electronic age pharmaceutical manufacturers could have websites for consumers to purchase their products after an electronic prescription is received. Alternatively, for a known additional amount, a pharmacist could advise and dispense. Americans with health accounts could pay directly for most drugs, especially generics. Insurance could supplement the individual’s payment to purchase the newer, more expensive items. Reforms of the drug-approval process to lower costs would be beneficial.

Kenneth A. Fisher, M.D.
Kalamazoo, Mich.

The entire PBM industry is all about kickbacks and market manipulation. The more rent takers, the more forced manipulation of consumers and the less transparency there are, the less free any market can be. Oligopsony is the antithesis of a free market and directly leads to increased consumer prices. The safe harbor allowing kickbacks and market manipulation for PBMs needs to be rescinded.

Howard C. Mandel, M.D., FACOG
Los Angeles

Rebates create an environment where higher-list-price drugs are favored, providing zero incentive for pharma companies to introduce lower-priced medicines in competitive therapeutic classes. Over the last five years, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, pharmaceutical spending has increased by 38% while the average individual health-insurance premium has increased by 107%. During the same period, rebates, discounts and fees paid by the biopharmaceutical industry to insurers and PBMs have risen from $74 billion to $153 billion—an increase of 107%. Rebates, discounts and fees haven’t slowed precipitous premium increases.

Because PBMs retain a portion of negotiated rebates and other price concessions as compensation for their services, list prices are rising rapidly even as net prices have held steady. Unsurprisingly, manufacturers are willing to raise prices and transfer the greatest list-price-based rebate value to middlemen to secure preferred formulary position at the expense of real free-market competition, while also limiting the therapeutic options of physicians and patients.

Most rebates are generated from the medicines needed by the sickest patients, including those with cancer, autoimmune disorders and HIV. These patients pay 10 times more out of pocket than healthy patients and are forced to try cheaper or more rebate-rich drugs before getting medicines that work best. Faced with higher out-of-pocket costs and barriers to access, people are more likely to stop their treatment, getting sicker and more expensive to treat.

Rebates targeting the most vulnerable Americans aren’t just kickbacks, they are discriminatory and deadly measures as well.

Peter J. Pitts, Robert Goldberg
Center for Medicine in the Public Interest
New York

Legalized kickbacks for an industry that is controlling the prescription market? This has turned the pharmaceutical market into a pay-to-play operation as manufacturers can pay an increasing kickback for a coveted place on the formulary. Euphemistically calling them rebates is simply a way to keep the money flow of health care hidden from the unsuspecting public.

Marion Mass, M.D.
Perkasie, Pa.

Forget Pens, How About Banning Kickbacks?

Back in 2008 the Pharmaceutical industry ostensibly took the high road and called for a moratorium on branded items handed out to doctors. No more free pens. Then in 2010 the Physician Payment Sunshine Act cemented in place red tape impeding other gifts to physicians. No more free lunches … with out filling out a form for Uncle Sam.

Well the truth is: “We’ve got big problems in health care, and I don’t think the problem is pens,” stated Houston physician Stephen Lapin, MD, speaking what was on the mind of virtually, if not literally, every physician.

These changes didn’t accomplish much if anything but a few warm fuzzy feelings for politicians, while the folks in C-Suites likely congratulated each other with a slap on the back for yet again shifting the blame onto doctors and covering up their own corruption.

This time doctors are fighting back and asking for real change, change with the potential to save patients to the tune of $100 billion dollars. How? By axing out the Pharmaceutical industry kickbacks being used to bribe the middlemen in control of American’s pharmaceutical benefits.

Your action is needed by July 16 to help end these improper bribes that are driving up costs, creating shortages, and controlling the prescriptions covered by your plan.

Speaking out is easy and instructions can be found here: https://aapsonline.org/alert-and-special-legislative-update-pharmacy-benefits-managers/.