Steve Hansen: Hiking the price of good health

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By Steve Hansen

Former QCS Managing Editor

Conservatives say that American business is hampered by too much regulation.

They’re probably right.

Sometimes, however, we are reminded that regulations often derive from bad behavior.

Even if Republicans win next year and pare back regulations, I would not be surprised to see new rules come down on the pharmaceutical industry.

Lately the drug companies have been very bad.

With little apparent justification, many drug companies have sent generic drug prices skyward recently. Many generics are now as overpriced as new drugs, whose prices used to be justified as necessary to support research.

Why? It seems it is mostly because they can. No law or regulation stops them.

According to news reports, the price of one tuberculosis drug has risen to $10,800 for 30 pills — from $500.

The price of an infection-fighting drug for AIDS patients has gone from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

The price of another antibiotic went from $20 a bottle in 2013 to $1,849 for the same bottle last year, according to Congressional investigators.

As if the hikes are not enough, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which has hyper-inflated many drug prices, stands accused of conspiring to drive pharmacy patients to Valeant’s priciest offerings, with health insurers picking up the tab.

Pfizer, the largest U.S. drug maker, has to explain why it told investors that it owed U.S. taxes that it actually does not pay, according to the Wall Street Journal. It paid $900 million in taxes, not the $3 billion it would have owed if its overseas earnings had been repatriated. Investors weren’t told that.

Research has stopped on new drugs to fight rapidly spreading, drug-resistant infections. Why? It’s more profitable to develop drugs for chronic conditions that require lots of pills.  Deadly new infections are cured with a few pills in a few days.

Free markets should be left alone, but this one is not free. This one is so controlled by the supply side that prices arbitrarily increase 90 times overnight, deceptions become acceptable, and dangerous health threats are ignored.

I think it may be time to summon the referee — yes, the darn government.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

stevenmhansen@plateautel.net

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