U-M doctor urges Congress to protect patients
A lucrative pricing strategy for pharmaceutical companies has increased the workload for doctors — and the burden for patients.
Fred Askari, M.D., Ph.D., for example, testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday that more clinic staff is needed to help patients figure out how to manage 3,000 percent price increases on their prescriptions, a change he says is not without consequences.
During the drama-filled, three-hour hearing, the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging focused on the pharmaceutical company Valeant’s practice of buying smaller drug companies with specialized niche drugs and jacking up prices. It’s a trend reflected across the pharmaceutical industry.
One Valeant-owned drug in particular, Cuprimine, a 55-year-old drug taken by the Wilson disease patients Askari treats, rose from $888 for 100 capsules to $26,189 for 100 after Valeant bought the rights to sell it in 2010.
The New York Times quoted Askari as he described the real-world repercussions of Valeant’s policies.
“We’re not just talking about costs here,” Dr. Askari said, noting that some patients who do not get these drugs can die. “We’re talking about human lives if they don’t get access to the drugs,” according to the Times article.
Askari treats about 400 Wilson disease patients who take copper control medications for life to stay healthy and alive.
“One should not confuse companies which institute sudden and dramatic price increases on long-standing critical drugs with those which are truly developing new ones,” says Askari, associate professor of hepatology at the University of Michigan.
Also on Wednesday, the chief executive of Valeant testified before the Senate committee, calling the company’s aggressive drug-pricing policy “a mistake." The company announced better funded patient assistance programs and discounts to hospitals that uses its heart drugs Nitropress and Isuprel.
Watch a recording of the hearing online, and read more about his testimony in MHealthLab: http://labblog.uofmhealth.org/industry-dx/testimony-high-drug-prices-have-enormous-human-cost.