With the advent of TV advertising for pharmaceuticals, I lost a lot of respect for the drug industry. The more I learned about how much money they spend wooing doctors and medical schools, and paying practicing physicians as consultants, the more that respect dwindled. But I think it’s hit a new low. I didn’t know that in addition to all the other sleazy things they do, pharmaceutical companies also use what’s known as “reverse payments” – when a brand name drug company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the release of a generic version of a drug. This is disgusting from both sides – the brand name companies that make such a slimy offer, and the generic companies that accept it.
The senate has introduced a bill to ban reverse payments, but it has stalled without going to a vote, thanks to the efforts of pharmaceutical lobbyists in Washington. How do these people sleep at night? I understand that we all have to make a living, but can anyone really feel good about themselves as a lobbyist for big pharmaceutical companies actively trying to prevent sick people from accessing affordable medications?
If the same drugs are available in Canada for a fraction of the price, something is very wrong with our pharmaceutical system. This is not an industry that should be filled with fat cat CEOs and rapidly rising stock value. A Hollywood movie studio can get as rich as it likes – I don’t care, because movies are not a necessity. Nobody is going to die if they aren’t able to pay $10 each to get into the latest blockbuster. But when an industry that makes a product that can literally mean the difference between life and death, there is an element of moral and social responsibility there that cannot be avoided, no matter how hard they try.
For the millions of Americans who have no health insurance, access to medications is sorely limited. If you don’t have health insurance – or if you have one of the inexpensive plans that doesn’t cover prescriptions at all – and you are told that you need a drug that costs $1000/month, life is going to be pretty rough. Especially if you made the tough decision to go without health insurance for economic reasons in the first place. Now what if you were told that in Canada, the same drug could be purchased for $150/month, but thanks to pharmaceutical lobbying, it’s illegal to import it across the border? Kind of makes you wonder whose side our government is on.
As far as this legislation against reverse payments, it’s time for the Senate to step up, ignore the lobbyists, and do what’s right for the American people – sick people, who desperately need a break. As soon as a drug company has recouped their costs to develop a drug, and made enough money to pay their researchers to start on the next drug, the drug should to to generic release. If the intention is truly to help people live longer and stay healthy, that would be the model.