Americans are always being sold, and health care products are no exception. It’s one thing when corporations are pushing the latest snack food or toothbrush, it’s another when they are pushing to make money in ways that endanger our health and well-being. The Washington Post reports that pharmaceutical companies have been using scare tactics to mislead the public about generic drugs and to keep lower-cost drugs off the market.
We all know that pharmaceutical companies use all the tools in their arsenal to profit off of our health. They charge Americans prices that are double what they charge in other wealthy countries, which regulate drug prices. They pay Pharmacy Benefit Managers to put their higher-cost drugs on insurance company formularies and keep generics off. They pay researchers to help ensure papers are published promoting their latest drugs. They pay TV stations to promote their drugs. They pay disease organizations to support their high prices. They contribute to election campaigns of federal and state policymakers to protect against legislation that would eat into their profits. And, the list goes on.
Now, they are said to be doing what they can to keep generic versions of their high-cost biologic drugs–biosimilars–off the market. They are misleading people. These generic biosimilar drugs are as safe and effective as the brand-name biologics. They are made with the same ingredients.
Biologics are made with living cells. And, they can treat a range of life-threatening diseases, including cancer. But, they tend to be extremely costly, often costing many thousands of dollars. Indeed, the majority of growth in prescription drug costs between 2010 and 2015 can be attributed to biologics, including Humira.
If the pharmaceutical companies succeed, it could keep these generics off the market, and many people will be forced to go without necessary treatment. They cannot afford the cost of the biologics; biosimilars could cost as little as half as much. Not surprisingly, drug spending is estimated to be between $54 billion and $200 billion higher over 10 years, if the biosimilars are not available.
But, what’s curious is that it is the doctors who prescribe these drugs. And, they are perfectly well positioned to tell their patients that biosimilars are as safe and effective as biologics. The Washington Post article does not explain why doctors are not prepared to do so.
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb suggested that the FDA could step in and issue warning letters to pharmaceutical companies if they are deliberately misleading people. But, it’s hard to imagine that will be helpful.
Here’s more from Just Care: