Big Pharma continues to outdo itself in charging exorbitant prices for prescription drugs, illustrating how broken our healthcare system is. Action Alert!
If you have hemophilia, you’re in luck? The FDA just approved a new gene therapy to treat the disease. All you need to pay is…$3.5 million! With this price tag, Hemgenix became the most expensive drug in the world, supplanting Zolgensma, which was approved in 2019 to treat spinal muscular atrophy and priced at $2.1 million. This is wrong on so many levels but is a perfect demonstration of why our medical system is so desperately in need of an overhaul—part of which is to stop throttling access to natural medicines, which is what Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is trying to do before the end of the year.
Hemogenix is a gene therapy drug to treat hemophilia B in adults, who lack or have insufficient levels of a protein that makes blood clot. The drug is administered just once intravenously. Part of the rationale for this astronomical price is that the one-time IV infusion replaces routine infusions to maintain adequate levels of the clotting protein.
Just let this sink in: according to AARP, there are four drugs that currently cost more than $1,000 a day to treat serious conditions like hepatitis C, short bowel syndrome, cancer, and myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune disorder that causes muscle weakness). Sovaldi is the hepatitis C drug that costs $1,000 a day. The drug maker, Gilead, argues that the drug is cheaper than alternatives (like routine injections of interferon) and it’s more effective, curing up to 90 percent of patients. But the case can also be made that Gilead is milking desperate patients—and taxpayers. More than half of those with hepatitis C are veterans, prisoners, uninsured, or on Medicaid, so taxpayers would pick up the bill. Meanwhile, Gilead offered the drug at a 99 percent discount to Egypt.
Many, if not most, drugs are very far from 90 percent effective. We reported previously that, of the top ten blockbuster drugs, the most effective work for only one in four patients. Crestor (a statin) is effective for only one in eighteen patients, and Nexium (an acid blocker) helps only one in twenty-five. That’s a failure rate of 96%! These drugs individually generate between $4 and $8 billion dollars per year. Patients are wasting mind-boggling sums of money on drugs that simply don’t work.
This broken and corrupt system is being aided and abetted by the FDA, the very agency tasked with protecting Americans and approving safe and effective drugs. We reported on the shameful approval of Aduhelm by the FDA despite its advisory committee overwhelmingly voting that the evidence supporting the drug’s efficacy was inadequate. One of the main reasons was that, of the two clinical trials on the drug, only one showed positive results, and those only emerged from an analysis of additional data after the trials were stopped because the drug didn’t appear to be working. Three members of the advisory committee resigned in protest over the agency’s decision to approve the drug, which will cost $56,000 a year—a bargain compared to $3.5 million!
Nor does the FDA seem to care that the foundational theory behind Aduhelm and other Alzheimer’s drugs may be completely false. This is the theory that Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of amyloid beta proteins (also referred to as amyloid plaque) in the brain. Recent investigations have found that the landmark study suggesting this causation falsified images. One of the co-authors of this questionable study is on the record saying, “for over 20 years, I have consistently expressed concerns that drugs targeting plaques were likely to be ineffective.”
Let’s also not forget that drug companies are essentially double-dipping. They charge patients huge sums for drugs and defend these price tags by pointing to the massive costs of drug research, development, and approval. But as we’ve stated previously, many of these drugs originate through tax-payer funded research: of the 210 medicines approved by the FDA between 2010 and 2016, every one originated in government labs, or university labs funded by the government. We subsidize drug development, then pay exorbitant costs once they’re approved.
This is all happening within the backdrop of Senator Dick Durbin’s quest to restrict your supplement access through his “mandatory product listing” policy we’ve been writing about so much over the last few months. Supplements offer Americans affordable, safe, and effective means to support their health, yet Sen. Durbin, his allies, and the FDA do everything in their power to limit not just your natural healthcare choices, but the information available to you about those products. To them, exorbitantly priced drugs are the answer. We need to speak up and make sure our supplements are not further restricted.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and urge them to oppose mandatory product listing for supplements. Please send your message immediately.