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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Wall, PharmD, RPh

Drug Affordability, How Big Pharma Is Breaking Down, And How HVRS Can Help

From insulin to EpiPens, more and more prescription drugs are rapidly becoming unaffordable. It seems as more time passes, the higher the prices of these drugs climb. You’ve probably heard the stories about people taking desperate measures when they can’t afford to pay the cost for the prescription drugs they need. Perhaps they are rationing insulin, which can lead to a fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis because they cannot afford its hefty price tag, which has doubled in price since 2012. Maybe they stockpile their prescription drugs, are unable to afford refills, and instead, take them even when they are far past their expiration date. In some cases, they may forgo cutting corners to obtain the medication at all, and instead, just hope for the best.

Whatever the case, it is clear that because of their ever-increasing costs, many pharmaceutical drugs just aren’t accessible to those who need them. This isn’t a recent problem either. Drug affordability has always been a hot-button issue, with millions of dollars spent on lobbying for Congress by large, multi-million dollar pharmaceutical companies (also known as Big Pharma) to prevent Congress from driving down the price of pharmaceutical drugs.

“Twenty-two of Forbes magazine’s top 25 largest drug and biotech companies in the world were found to have lobbied on some variation of the term “drug pricing.” Collectively, these 22 companies spent more than $80 million on lobbying during this period.”

It is in the best interest of Big Pharma to keep prices high so that they may generate profit at the expense of the everyday consumer's health and in plenty of cases, their lives. These drugs are often necessary for people to maintain critical components of their health every day, and Big Pharma understands this. There will always be a demand for these drugs⁠⁠—thus, big companies choose to charge the highest prices they can for what amounts to only a dollar’s worth of active medication in each individual dose. How then can you both make a profit while simultaneously ensuring that those patients in need of medication can purchase them at a reasonable price?

HRVS Solutions can help with that: here, we are committed to providing assistance for independent pharmacy owners to accomplish progressive operations and have made it our mission to help independent pharmacy businesses grow while thinking outside of the box and going the extra mile for the benefit of the patient, including making pharmaceutical drugs more affordable and thus more accessible. Additionally, in the face of big pharma, we hope to help foster the independent pharmacy sector in the face of adversity and ever-changing playing fields.

How Big Pharma Is Breaking down

As far as 10 years back, people like Jasmine Weaver have been testifying in front of Congress regarding “out of control prescription drug pricing.” Often, the drugs that are the most expensive are the ones necessary for people in their everyday lives. EpiPens, the go-to medication for those with severe allergies, cost around $100 a refill (with good insurance). These absurdly high prices are the result of overlapping market failures and monopolies:

“When you visit the pharmacy to fill a prescription, there are three or four distinct entities (including the manufacturers, the pharmacies, the pharmacy benefit managers, and insurers) taking a cut from your purchase. Among the worst actors is Big Pharma, which benefits from an untenable patent system that gives corporations way too much power over the production and distribution of prescription drugs, choking off competitors and allowing them to set prices astronomically high.”

Notably, Big Pharma also enjoys the benefits of having allies in Congress and the US government, having research funded and sanctioned by the government, and also receiving tax cuts that do nothing but ensure that those at the head of Big Pharma keep their pockets lined. Specifically, former President Donald Trump signed a tax bill into law that resulted in the corporate tax rate being reduced by 14% and enabling corporations to save a grand total of $76 billion dollars. All the while, Big Pharma was given free rein to charge exorbitant prices for medication, such as insulin, that many patients need to live.

That is not to say that Big Pharma is invincible. While theoretically, these large companies could continue devoting millions of dollars to lobbying Congress to not force them to drive down the prices of their drugs forever, popular support already exists for lowering their prices and making drugs more affordable to the everyday consumer: according to a Harvard/Politico poll conducted in 2018, four out of five Americans want Congress to drive down the prices of prescription drugs. Additionally, there are certain ways to curb Big Pharma’s influence via lobbying:

“Banning lobbyists from fundraising for candidates would reduce special-interest influence over the legislative process. Another way to limit corrupting conflicts of interest is to ban members of Congress from accepting campaign donations from entities under the jurisdiction of the committees on which they serve.”

One of the leading programs that have contributed to the breakdown of Big Pharma is the 340B program:

  • “The 340B Program enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

  • Manufacturers participating in Medicaid agree to provide outpatient drugs to covered entities at significantly reduced prices.

  • Eligible health care organizations/covered entities are defined in statute and include HRSA-supported health centers and look-alikes, Ryan White clinics and State AIDS Drug Assistance programs, Medicare/Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospitals, children’s hospitals, and other safety net providers.”

How HVRS Solutions Can Help

As a company committed to helping foster the future of independent pharmacies that are devoted to best-serving patients rather than maximizing profits at their expense, HVRS Solutions has our own 340B division with its own vision: we strive to implement and assist in any and all 340B related matters in order to improve the lives of indigent populations, and the healthcare providers that serve them.

The federal government’s 340B program is designed to promote access to affordable medications for the most vulnerable or underserved patient populations while helping to stretch federal resources. This program mandates that drug manufacturers must provide outpatient drugs at greatly discounted prices to certain qualifying hospitals and healthcare organizations. Today, more than one-third of all hospitals nationwide participate in the 340B program and benefit from these drug discounts. It is estimated that 95% of all marketed drugs have 340B discounts associated with them and the average savings is approximately 25-50% off wholesale pricing.

Specialty drugs are an important area for 340B programs, as these therapies tend to be higher in cost and the market for specialty medications is growing rapidly. As a result, we frequently collaborate with qualified 340B hospitals and healthcare organizations, providing access to more affordable drugs while maintaining our unwavering focus on clinical excellence, patient education, and premier service.

Fill in your contact information to learn more about the 340B federal program, our 340B solution, and how we collaborate with 340B-qualifying organizations throughout the U.S.


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