Pharmaceutical prices continue to rise, and this trend disproportionately impacts the lives of older Americans. The AARP Public Policy Institute found that brand name pharmaceutical prices often used by senior citizens approximately tripled from 2006 to 2015.
In response to increased public outrage, the Food and Drug Administration announced a workgroup to explore importing drugs from overseas. For now, they are only looking at the specific case of importing drugs where a single manufacturer has a monopoly in the market of an off-patent drug.
The most high-profile case of an off-patent drug price hike was in 2015 when Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased Daraprim and raised the drug’s price over 5,000 percent. Shkreli became the face of pharmaceutical price hikes and was later jailed for unrelated crimes.
Importing drugs from other countries is illegal, but the Trump administration want to explore the possibility of allowing importation to combat the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of hiking drug prices that have no competition.
For proponents of lowering drug prices, this is a step in the right direction, however it is a limited step. Moving toward allowing the importation of drugs in certain cases can stem huge price hikes, but it is only a part of a larger problem.
In general, drug prices are becoming substantially higher across the board, and the pharmaceutical industry’s control on government policy has gone a long way to protect the interests of the industry.
The premier pharmaceutical industry trade group, PhRMA, increased revenue in the 2016 elections and used this money to gain influence through lobbyists and political campaign contributions. The increased spending was in response to an election where both political parties targeted the industry as a threat to the American people.
So far, Big Pharma’s money has paid off as pharmaceutical profits continue to soar, and it remains to be seen whether their influence will extend as far to hold off the FDA from allowing the importation of some foreign drugs.
Senior citizens and many other Americans who rely on off-patent drugs will be holding their breath in hope that the FDA finds a safe and cost-effective solution to the enormous price hikes that many consumers face.
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