High Drug Prices

In America in 2000 we were on the verge of the largest cycle of drug-patent expirations in our history.  The analysts remained divided on what benefit the consumers would enjoy from this unprecedented trend.

An estimated $34 billion worth of blockbuster drugs expired between 2000 and 2004, which was the largest in the nation’s history, and it is still divided on what benefit, if any, the consumers will enjoy from this trend.  This included antidepressant Prozac and the antihistamine Claritin among some others, according to IMS Health. At the time the argument from Wall Street analysts predicted these patent expirations would decrease overall drug prices, but the consumer representative and makers of generic drugs argued that prices would remain unjustifiably high unless legislation would decrease brand-name drug prices or require the use of generic alternatives.

We all know that the “brand-name” drug industry is very greedy, according to Frank Clemente, Executive Director, Americans for Tax Fairness as stated in 2000.  Citizens could save billions in health care costs, even though the makers of the brand-name drugs immediately used every weapon possible to ensure the predominance of their products and the relatively high prices remained the same.

Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reported that four out of five potential new drugs would never see the light of lady.  Investors need high returns to justify the gamble, even though the industry’s profit margin is very healthy. This would amount to about $26.5 billion a year.

Some of the drug companies received extensions on their patents for various reasons.  The brand-name manufacturers have several ways to keep their drug prices high, even after they have lost the patent protection.  The generous advertising budgets to promote brand loyalty despite the emergence of cheaper generic competitors can keep the drug prices high.

We can all see a benefit from the approval of more generic competitors, even if it’s realized only in the amount of our insurance copay for prescription drugs.  Many times we are not even aware there is a generic product available out there.  Be sure to ask if there is a generic, and unless the doctor has specifically stated no generic, it should be provided by your pharmacy at a drastic savings to the consumer.

Dr Fredda Branyon