Getting Away With Murder

By: Nicole Nazari

$600, $1,400, and $11,000: these are not the prices of vacations, rent, nor a down payment on a car. These numbers are the cost of an EpiPen, insulin, and one month of colorectal cancer treatment; some of the most used medications by Americans. [1] [2] Many of their users cannot afford their treatments, which affects the proper dosage. One-fourth of diabetics ration insulin–users skip doses, use less, or even dilute it. [3] Despite the public health crisis, no significant steps have been made to halt pharmaceutical companies’ unethical conduct. 

In the States, drug makers set drug prices. In other countries, drug companies have to meet with agencies, and those agencies are the ones who determine drug coverage and prices. Countries like Australia, Canada, and Britain regulate the price of drugs to ensure that medical treatment remains affordable for all citizens, regardless of their income. [4]

In America, there is no regulatory body that negotiates drug prices. Rather, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs if they are shown to be ‘safe and effective.’ [4] Once the FDA approves the drug, health insurers can negotiate their own prices with drug makers. The lack of uniform prices makes it harder for the insured to demand lower prices. Moreover, federal law prohibits Medicare, a plan that covers 55 million Americans, from negotiating drug prices. [5] Consequently, Medicare is required to cover nearly all drugs that the FDA approves, even if the drugs are priced at unaffordable prices.

Generic drugs are one way to combat exorbitantly priced drugs, saving the U.S. healthcare system $1.67 trillion from 2007 to 2016. [6] Nine out of every ten prescriptions in the U.S. are generic, available for only 22 percent of the total cost to the health care prescription drug dollar. [7] Recently, however, lawsuits have alleged drug manufacturers conspired to manipulate the prices of over 100 generic drugs–There was a spike in generic drug prices between 2012 and 2014, the time period at issue [8] One report found that the prices of more than 1,200 drugs increased by more than 448%. [8] So, as of now, generic drugs, the main plausible way to combat high prices, seems to also be failing. This leaves many Americans desperate awaiting a realistic solution.










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