Opinion | Pharmaceutical companies do have a morality crisis

Why does the industry raise drug prices exorbitantly here — yet not in other countries? A 2021 Rand report found that prescription drug prices in the United States were more than twice those in 32 other nations.

A 2020 House Oversight Committee report found pricing decisions here driven by revenue and earnings goals and as a tool to boost profits. The committee revealed, for instance, that the cost of a multiple sclerosis drug was increased in the United States by 60 percent when its manufacturer faced pressure to reduce its price in Europe. And a cancer drug’s price had increased more than 20 times since its launch in 2005, while company profits rose to an astounding $4 billion in 2018.

A major problem has been that the 2003 Medicare Part D Law, thanks to the industry, had prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices on behalf of beneficiaries. But even when this restriction was lifted in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the industry prevailed: Price negotiations were allowed only sparingly, with just 60 drugs permitted by the end of this decade, and only 20 more each year thereafter.

And, according to the public interest nonprofit The Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge, drugmakers abuse the U.S. patent system by amassing hundreds of patents that must be cleared before generics can come to market. Without competition, the price of drugs increases mercilessly.

Our nation is faced with an industry “morality crisis” of huge proportions. Priority goes not to the welfare of Americans but to the financial well-being of the pharmaceutical industry. Congress must act now.

Nancy J. Herin, Rockville

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