“Renda Bower knows well the cost of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis – her husband, son and daughter all have the painful, disabling autoimmune disease,” Julie Appleby writes over at Kaiser Health News, explaining the behind-the-scenes actions of drug makers and pharmacy benefit companies. “And the family’s finances revolve around paying for them. Even with insurance, Bower’s family last year faced $600 a month in copayments for the drug, plus additional payments on another $16,000 in medical bills racked up in 2016 when a former insurer refused to cover all the doses her 9-year-old daughter needed. Bowers, of Warsaw, Ind., said her family tries to keep up with prices by cutting back on her children’s sports and extracurriculars and skipping family vacations. She also works as a part-time teacher. But financially, it’s hard. ‘The cost should not be this high,’ she said. Wholesale prices for Humira and Enbrel, the two most commonly used treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, known as RA, increased more than 70 percent in the past three years. Since the first RA drug came to market a decade ago, nearly a dozen have been added. If basic economics prevailed, RA treatments and patients would have benefited from competition. But, because of industry price-setting practices, legal challenges and marketing tactics, they haven’t. The first RA drug cost $10,000 a year. It now lists for more than $40,000 — even as alternatives have entered the U.S. market. ‘Competition generally doesn’t work to lower prices in branded specialty drugs,’ said Peter Bach, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes. Humira is the world’s No. 1 prescription drug by revenue. AbbVie manufactures and markets the drug and is on track to reach revenue from the product of $17 billion this year. Other RA treatments are also among the top 10 drugs by revenue sold in the U.S. Enbrel, made by Amgen, ranks as No. 3. Remicade, by Janssen Biotech, is fifth. Some RA medications are approved for other conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.” Julie Appleby, “Arthritis Drugs Show How U.S. Drug Prices Defy Economics,” Kaiser Health News.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.