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    How high-cost medications affect patients

    The skyrocketing price of prescription medications has been a huge topic from the presidential campaign trail to social media, thanks in part to former Turing Pharmaceutical CEO and real-life villain Martin Shkreli. Shkreli made headlines in late 2015 when he jacked up the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine), used to treat toxoplasmosis and malaria, to $750 per pill from $13.50.

    Shkreli was arrested on December 17 for his Ponzi-scheme business practices. He resigned from Turing the next day.

    While Shkreli got what many would agree was coming to him, his company’s move sparked a loud debate across the country about how to address the problem of high medication costs. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have offered their takes on both the causes and solutions to high drug prices. 

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    Optometry Times' sister publication Drug Topics writes that the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging recently met to discuss possible solutions to the problem (you can watch that hearing HERE). Four pharma companies—Turing, Valeant, Retrophin, and Rodelis Therapeutics—all faced harsh criticism from the investigation for the practice of acquiring off-patent drugs and rising the price by 20 to 40 times.

    Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, told Drug Topics that federal policy has attempted to strike a balance between maintaining incentives for drug development and keeping medicines affordable.

    “That balance we have struck never anticipated companies acquiring off-patent drugs and then jacking up their prices to enormous heights, and doing so, as one executive essentially put it, ‘because I can,’” says Collins.

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    One of the proposed solutions was fast-tracking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of generics. Mark Merritt, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, told the committee there is a three-year backlog of 4,000 drugs. Expedited review of drugs that don’t have competition could change the business picture entirely, Merritt told Drug Topics.

    While those at the top debate the issue ad nauseum, high drug prices continue to affect patients—and thereby their treatment plans and doctors—every single day.

    Next: How high costs affect patients

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...


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