This is wrong

It’s nice to see that the folks in this wacky world aren’t the only ones who can screw up a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Now that the President has released his views on the “high” cost of drugs, now that Congress has heard testimony on the “high” out of pocket for insulin here comes the action and please sit down for this one.

According to a post on the FiercePharma web site;

“In the immediate aftermath of President Donald Trump’s big drug pricing speech, industry watchers noted a relatively unique proposal: forcing drugmakers to slap sticker prices into consumer advertising. Now, five senators are taking the next step.

It’s a small one, granted. They’re asking top drugmakers to voluntarily add pricing information in their TV commercials and print ads. In letters to executives at Pfizer, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, five Democratic and independent senators asked the drugmakers to immediately add drug prices to their direct-to-consumer promos.”

Now how this helps we aren’t quite sure and to us anyway is just another reason we don’t want to government to “solve” this problem. As the post correctly notes just which price would the drug makers put on their ads. Would it be the list price? Would it be the net effective selling price considering discounts plus rebates? Would it actually lower what a consumer pays out of pocket?

Our biggest fear here is that even if these issues can be worked out does it lead to more action by Washington. The reality here, a place where few like to venture, is Congress and the President have a limited set of options. To have a real impact on the patient’s pocket book Washington must take more direct and forceful actions.

As witnessed with ObamaCare healthcare reform is a complex maze and one of the most difficult issues for Washington to tackle. The place where no one wants to go but is the shortest distance between two points is to develop a single payer system similar to what many European countries offer. And the reason no one wants to go there is even if it could get done, something we doubt, single payor systems bring with them their own set of issues.

Everyone seems to think that there is some sort of quick fix here, that there is a secret sauce to real healthcare reform. There isn’t which is why there is so much pontificating and so little in the way of substantive action. Making matters worse is that any real reform will make someone unhappy most likely lots of people unhappy.

Let’s frame this in the current hot issue the high out of pocket cost of insulin. An issue which we believe is overblown and not the issue all the pontificators think it is. Let’s be very clear here there are people who through no fault of their own cannot afford the medication that’s keeps them alive. However, and this is what no one wants to look at is for every patient who falls into the real need category there is another who has options available to them IF they are willing to do some work.

Recently we investigated the current programs offered by Lilly (NYSE: LLY), Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) and Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) the three major insulin companies. Each company does offer financial assistance for patients in need, patients who meet certain requirements. Yes, there are standards to meet, paperwork which must be filled out but if the patient qualifies they do get their insulin for FREE. Which to us is pretty good trade off for the effort put in by the patient.

Lilly, Novo and Sanofi are publicly traded companies which means they have a fiduciary responsibility to their stakeholders. Put simply they are in business to make money and it would be irresponsible to simply give away for free the products they make. Yes, they can be and in our opinion are good corporate citizens by offering financial assistance to patients who qualify. However, they cannot and frankly should not just give this stuff away. Nowhere is it written that affordable insulin, however you want to define affordable, is an inalienable right.

The Constitution that great document we live by does not mention affordable drugs along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a right. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights that other great document we live by does it mention affordable drugs as a right. In fact, nowhere in either of these great documents does it mention healthcare whatsoever. The framers of the Constitution those very wise men understood that the Constitution as written was a living, breathing document that would evolve over time.

Yet so many believe that somehow affordable drugs, affordable healthcare – again however you want to define affordable – is a right extended to every person living in the United States. That since patients must have insulin to survive that it should be given to them, that because their diabetes is being treated with insulin they are entitled to it.

What no one, well no one but us, talks about is does not the patient also bear some responsibility too. We are not trying to be cold and unfeeling but my goodness if a patient is faced with the decision of eating or getting insulin, do they not have the responsibility to investigate every possible program that might help them.

What everyone does is focus on the few patients who die due to this issue. Again, we are not being cold hearted here but we have read many of these stories. With some yes, it is true the patient died because through no fault of their own they could not afford their insulin. However, with others the patient who died did have options available to them, options which they were aware of yet did not take advantage of. Is it the insulin’s companies fault the patient did not investigate these options?

We know this goes against the grain, we get that. It’s so simple and easy to comfort the living after the loss of a loved one. It’s even easier to blame the big bad money grubbing insulin companies for the loss. And it sure as hell makes a great story that will get plastered all over social media. Listen we know the insulin companies are not angels however we will not like so many others put the blood of a dead patient on their hands. This is just wrong.

So, go ahead call us cold hearted call us a tool for big bad pharma – which is really a joke considering our track record – frankly we’ve heard it before. The fact is all this finger pointing and pontificating doesn’t help patients who truly are in need. Yep the insulin companies are easy and convenient targets. Yep it’s easy to lay the blame on their doorstep. It’s also wrong, very wrong.