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Drug Price Hike and its Impact on Patients

Clinical Research & Pharmacovigilance

Drug Price Hike and its Impact on Patients

The drug price hike is making news this year. Turing Pharmaceuticals, the business established by the well known Martin Shkreli, increased the price of Daraprim from $13 a pill to $750, a 5,000 % raise. The drug has been used for years to cure malaria and toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can impact HIV patients.

According to Judit Rius Sanjuan, a global law specialist and U.S. manager and legal policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders’ Access Campaign:

Aggressive pricing strategies are not new — and those impacted most are the poorest in developing nations.

In recent interview, Sanjuan provided his insight regarding drug pricing hike and how it impacts patients.

How can a drug price for malaria/HIV infections go from $13.50 to $750 per tablet?

When pharmaceutical organizations don’t have competition, they price the medicines as they want. Generally what they do is they increase the costs as high as they consider the market can bear. It doesn’t truly issue to them if the product is not going to be economical and if only a little number of patients will have access. What they attempt to do is optimize profits. That is massively difficult from a public health viewpoint, but it’s not at all an exception.

It’s an example of an inability in the present system where government authorities are not controlling or intervening to promote competitors and set up boundaries on how high costs are being generally increased.

What effect does that have on the battle against diseases?

It indicates there is a large negative effect on the lives of large numbers of people. If companies increase the costs so high, people get poor medical care. Sufferers are not actually treated with the best medical care that are available; they are treated with medical care that are economical. Or there is rationing of care. In some cases it indicates that not all the sufferers that need treatment get treatment. In some cases only the richest or the sickest get access to medical therapies.

How is it feasible to set costs that high?

If the company which is providing drug or vaccine has a monopoly — either due to a patent or another reason, they have the independence to set costs as high as they want.

That must change if other firms are producing the same drug

When competitors’ gets to the market, then normally it has an effect on costs being lower and often very considerably lower. That truly is many times a game changer.

Do nations ever intervene?

Some nations have the potential to regulate costs by setting up price controls. When the government authorities in developing nations use these tools, that generally has a positive effect and prices are lower.

Do excessive jumps in drug prices go on all the time and we just don’t hear about it?

Turing Pharmaceuticals is not an exception. It’s a systematic issue we are experiencing in many nations that we work in. And the scenario is getting more intense as more monopolies are being created. We have seen prices increase throughout the board for TB drugs, for HIV drugs, for vaccines, for hepatitis C drugs.

What will the effect of the revelations about Martin Shkreli and his organizations’ practices be on worldwide drug prices?

I hope it helps raise the issue that high costs are an issue. This is happening not only in the United States but all over the world. This is impacting the lives of large numbers of people in a very adverse way and there are particular concrete actions that government authorities can take. I believe it’s an opportunity that must be seized to fix the present research development system for drugs and vaccines.

There are also reports that when a nation moves from lower to middle income, prices for the medicines it requires go up. Is this a problem in fighting diseases?

When a nation moves from low income to middle income, public health requirements don’t change. There is a massive amount of inequality in these nations. In fact, there are official reports that over 70% of the poorest individuals all over the world no longer live in low-income nations but in fact reside in middle-income nations. Organizations are increasing prices in nations considered middle income. They are charging higher prices than the prices they charge in low-income economies. That has a massive negative impact for sufferers who are poor.

Adding to above statement Judit Rius Sanjuan said “Innovation that’s not affordable is useless to us”.

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