Since his recent confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar has made repeated promises to bring down drug prices, with President Trump frequently speaking about his efforts as if they are already bearing fruit.
However, in one of the most prominent cases of drug over-pricing– that of Daraprim, acquired by made-for-congressional-hearings-villain and Pharma-Bro Martin Shrkeli– news is breaking this week that the drug’s price remains exactly the same as before Congress, the media, and a ton of average Americans went nuts about it.
Shkreli made headlines and turned himself into one of the most hated people in the country when he bought Daraprim and instituted a 5,000% price hike, bringing the cost up to $750 per tablet. Along with the EpiPen pricing scandal, it was one of two events that likely seeded the most rage on the part of the American public towards Big Pharma, and shifted attitudes towards favoring a much greater crackdown on drug pricing– something that benefited Trump, politically.
An enterprising health care reporter at Axios has now discovered that the “list price on Daraprim is still $750 per tablet.”
The news is likely to enhance pressure for Azar and the Trump administration more broadly to act, especially with Big Pharma continuing to fight against efforts to retain the 340B drug discount program, which makes overpriced drugs like Daraprim available to poorer, often rural, red state voters, at less than a $750 per pill list price, and against state level efforts to reduce the price of drugs taxpayers are paying for via Medicaid programs.
During his presidential campaign, Trump frequently assailed Big Pharma offering a bevy of policy proposals loathed by the sector. But as President, he has been seen to take a more friendly approach with the industry.
However, that could be changing. Axios also reports this morning that “The Justice Department announced that it will try to join a lawsuit, led by several state and local governments, against drugmakers and distributors that sell or sold prescription opioids.”
That approach would replicate the one taken against Big Tobacco decades ago, and may signal an about-face against Big Pharma that could have Shkreli, and other big names in the industry associated with rapacious pricing schemes, shaking in their boots.