Editorial: The Real Price Of Prescriptions

Monsignor William J. LinderEditorial By
Monsignor William J. Linder

For those who rely on prescription medication to maintain their health, staying alive doesn’t come cheap.

A stunning new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that for many Americans, medication costs about 75 percent of the average annual Social Security retirement benefit.

In 2006, the average retail cost of a one-year supply of a life-saving drug was $5,571, according to the report. By 2013, the average cost soared to $11,341, the report said. That’s double—it’s just simple math.

The AARP study should stop us in our tracks. People who need these prescription medications need help—they are not cash cows for pharmaceutical companies to ruthlessly milk.

And yet we find that these giant and politically powerful corporations are raking in billions of dollars in profits.  It’s not hard to see why. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat parasitic infections in pregnant women and HIV patients, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, hoping to score a quick profit with its 5,000 percent price hike.

The cost of a popular antibiotic called Doxycycline hyclate jumped from $20 to $1,849 for 500 capsules.

Rodelis Therapeutics increased the price of 30 capsules of its tuberculosis drug cycloserine from $500 to $10,800. (The company later caved under pressure and opted to sell the rights for the drug to the Purdue Research Foundation, which lowered the price to a cool $1,050.)

Let me be clear, these kinds of costs are unbearable for the vast majority of Americans. For seniors, the population that most heavily relies on medications, paying for a prescription can quickly become a cruel calculation of whether to pay for food, rent or other basic necessities.

I believe that we need more studies conducted—using the latest, up to the minute research—to scrutinize the rising cost of prescriptions. Some of the largest pharmaceutical companies spend roughly double on marketing and selling their meds than they do on the actual research and development, according Consumer Reports.

To add insult to injury, many of these profit-driven companies shift their earnings offshore to avoid U.S. taxes.

Finally, it should also come as no surprise that Big Pharma throws more money at elected officials than any other industry, by far. Last year, the pharmaceutical and health product industry spent more than $230 million lobbying American politicians. They left in the dust the insurance industry, which spent $157 million on lobbying.

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