The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

How Much Medicine Can You Afford?

Jan 6, 2020

On December 12th, the House of Representatives passed legislation to lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by supposedly empowering the federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers. But on January 1st, pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of hundreds of drugs an average of 5.8% for 2020.

Prices for scores of top drugs have gone up nearly nine times faster than inflation over the past dozen years. Included are drugs for breast cancer treatment, for arthritis, for diabetes, for blood clots. Humira, a drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, currently has a list price of $5,174 a month, compared to $2,914 in 2014. Lantus, a diabetes medicine, has gone up 24% in six years; Xarelto, for blood clots, up 54% in six years; and so on.

The pharmaceutical companies made 69 billion dollars in world-wide profits on $330 billion in sales in 2019. This 20% profit margin is about three times higher than the average across the largest 500 companies across all industries.

As if the price increases aren’t enough for the ordinary person, greater numbers of Americans are paying a larger share or even the full price of their medications with shrinking insurance coverage.

So what’s the solution to lower drug costs? Certainly NOT to wait on the politicians! According to a report in the January 2020 Consumer Reports, there were at least 50 separate pieces of drug-price legislation introduced in the Senate and the House in 2019, but not one of these has been signed into law.

No one proposes seizing these bloodsucking companies, clawing back their obscene profits, and turning them into public utilities in the interests of public health. Yet nothing short of that will provide necessary medications for all who need them, regardless of ability to pay.