Many of Big Pharma’s overpriced medications developed with
-by Vicki Batts
Big Pharma has been subject to immense scrutiny for quite some time now. Government
inquiries of the industry date back to 1959, with Congress having launched over 50 individual hearings to investigate their practices. These hearings have reached the same conclusion: that Big Pharma
is making huge profits at the expense of the American people. And yet, for some reason, the government has yet to do anything to put a stop to this nonsense.
In almost 60 years, since the
investigations of Big Pharma began, Congress has never passed any kind of legislation to prevent the pharmaceutical industry from charging exorbitant prices — even for products
that were developed with taxpayer dollars. (RELATED: Find out more about Big Pharma at Medicine.news)
Corporate greed keeps life-saving drugs from veterans
Just three years ago, in 2014, the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held
a hearing to investigate the skyrocketing price of generic drugs. Drug prices have continued to increase since then, of course.
The following year, Gilead came under
fire for their outlandish drug prices — most notably, the sky-high costs of their drugs for hepatitis C. One drug, Solvaldi, was actually developed by a research
scientist from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. After being acquired by Gilead, the product was priced so high that the VA — which paid to develop the drug — could not afford to give the pills to
their own patients.
Gilead felt that it was fair for them to charge $1,000 per pill for a drug that they themselves had not even created. The retail price for a 12-week Solvaldi treatment is a sickening $84,000; even with a
50 percent discount, the VA was still unable to afford treatment for many sick veterans that contacted Hep C while overseas during the Vietnam War.
Only the lowest of the low could sleep at night, knowing that their price-gouging was
preventing veterans from getting much-needed medical care.
Don’t worry, it gets worse.
Dr. Raymond Schinazi, the drug’s creator — owner of Pharmasett and at the time of the
drug’s creation, Senior Research Scientist of the VA in Atlanta — admitted in a 2013 trade publication that an entire 12-week treatment of Solvaldi only cost $1,400 to make. A reportfrom Americans For Tax Fairness states that Schinazi and his private company received millions in
federal grant money to conduct research and develop treatment for Hep C.
Schinazi sold his company to Gilead in 2012. Shortly after acquiring it, Gilead saw fit
to raise the price of the drug — to nearly 60 times what it costs to produce.
Following their investigation of Gilead, government officials concluded that the only
explanation for the explicit price-gouging was corporate greed: they charged as much as possible, purely because they could.
(Related: Read more about rigged pricing, rigged polls and rigged systems at
Other drugs have been created with taxpayer money
ABC News reported that the federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent some $484 million
dollars on developing a cancer drug called Taxol. They entered an agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in 1993. A 2003 report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) revealed that the federal government recovered a mere $35 million in royalty payments — even though BMS
had racked up profits to the tune of $9 billion — in just 9 years. That’s a billion dollars a year in profits! And yet it was our tax dollars that paid for all that research.
The GAO report showed that the NIH spent almost half a billion dollars to research and
create a new drug, and they then signed a contract that inevitably allowed a pharmaceutical company to patent it and prevent generics from entering the marketplace for years. It is beyond
comprehension and totally reprehensible.
Corruption and greed in the pharmaceutical industry are hardly a thing of the past.
More recently, pharmaceutical giant Mylan was called out for their price-gouging of the life-saving EpiPen. After acquiring the EpiPen patent — which was initially developed for the Department of
Defense — Mylan increased the price of the product by 461 percent over the course of nine years.
There are countless other instances of wrongdoing within the pharmaceutical industry,
particularly as it pertains to government regulation and policy. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be resolved — and should have been remedied years ago during or after one of the 50
investigations the government has conducted.