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With drug prices soaring, millions buy drugs abroad

Written by Diane Archer

Brand-name drug companies continue to price their drugs sky high, and generic drug companies are following suit on drugs that have traditionally cost little. In response, according to Kaiser Health News, some 19 million consumers are buying their drugs abroad. And millions more are simply foregoing needed drugs because they are no longer affordable. Meanwhile President Trump and the Republican leadership fail to take any action to rein in drug prices.

In a recent New York Times article, Gretchen Morgenstern reports that because drug companies have been under attack, many pharmaceutical company executives are “laying low,” slowing their price increases. Of note, Morgenstern does not name any who are laying low. Why would they slow price increases? Pharmaceutical companies have every reason to drive prices higher and higher, while they can.

Morgenstern further reports that some pharmaceutical companies “believe their jig is up,” but it is hard to see why. Congress has shown little interest in ending their monopoly power over brand-name drug prices. Beholden to Wall Street and their shareholders, with no legal obligation to the public, drug companies have every reason to reach for the moon with their brand-name drug prices until Congress steps in to stop them. That’s how they maximize profits.

Moreover, nothing is stopping pharmaceutical companies from charging high prices for many generic drugs, so long as they do not violate antitrust laws. Morgenstern reports that the Government Accountability Office issued a 2016 report on the soaring cost to Medicare of generic drugs in the five years between 2010 and 2o15, with one in five more than doubling in price.

As just one example of a company pushing the envelope, Lanett, which manufactures generic drugs for a range of conditions, including thyroid conditions, irritable bowel syndrome and congestive heart failure, is raising prices between three and seventeen-fold on some drugs, while the Justice Department investigates it for antitrust violations.

Not surprisingly millions of Americans are importing drugs from abroad for personal use in order to save money and get needed treatment. Technically, they are violating the law. But, the FDA allegedly has never enforced the law against individuals who import drugs from abroad for personal use. Until Congress acts, what choice do people needing costly medications have?

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry, through PhRMA, its trade association, relies on the non-profit it has created to fight any possible Congressional action to permit importation of drugs from abroad, as Senator Bernie Sanders’ bill would do. The alleged concern is “safety.” But, there are no reported deaths from anyone taking a drug imported from abroad from a pharmacy requiring a legitimate prescription.

For the moment, the Republican leadership seems to think it’s OK for the Americans they represent to be required to pay many times more for drugs than people everywhere else in the world.

If you want Congress to rein in drug prices, please sign this petition. 

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