CMS is behind Big Pharma’s racket, too

Here’s a relevant follow-up to Tuesday’s conversation for you…

It was recently revealed just how much the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) drug prices have increased over the last several years. Which means that the Medicare Part D coverage plans that American seniors cherish so dearly just keeps getting more and more expensive.

Not that anyone should be surprised by this. Big Pharma corrupts everything it touches. And if you think the government isn’t right there in cahoots with them, it’s time to wake up.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shared drug spending data from CMS spanning between 2012 and 2016. And let’s just say it’s a little shocking.

In fact, in 2016, a whopping 23 percent of the budget (roughly $175 billion) was blown on prescription drugs — up from 17 percent ($109 billion) four years earlier. And insulin prices in particular have been subject to the most significant of these increases, registering in the double digits, year after year.

Sure, you could argue that more people are on Medicare and Medicaid—and that’s what’s driving these price increases. But let me assure you that, while that may be true, it’s not why a good quarter of Medicare’s total budget goes straight into the pockets of huge corporations.

Now, one would think that the federal government has a bit of bargaining power, given they’re the country’s leading insurer for drug use. But do they use the leverage to negotiate better prices and provide better health care coverage to those who can’t afford it?

Apparently not. They’d rather just let Big Pharma roll right over them.

Drug prices have skyrocketed over the last five years. But perhaps the most noteworthy has been insulin — with annual growth rates pushing 20 percent between 2012 and 2016.

Specifically, Lantus® (insulin glargine) earned sales of $2.53 billion in 2016. (Due in no small part to the one million plus Medicare Part D participants who used the drug.) That represents an 18.6 percent jump in annual growth rate.

Meanwhile prices for Humalog® (insulin lispro) — which is Eli Lilly and Company’s biggest seller in this category — jumped by 12.7 percent per dosage unit, and more than 16 percent in total between 2012 and 2016.

Now, insulin is an old drug — so I ask you, why the change now? Perhaps the soaring price of insulin could have something to do with the ever-growing number of diabetics in our country?

More diabetics, plus higher insulin prices, equals higher profits for shareholders. As far as I’m concerned, it’s obvious that everyone involved saw an opportunity to make money hand over fist. And they weren’t about to let it pass by.

Needless to say, these price increases hurt taxpayers and patients in the name of profit — especially since many of them are impacting older drugs, which are well past the expensive initial marketing phase.

And not just insulin, either. CMS’s latest announcement also highlights a six percent increase in growth rates for Remicade ®and Rituxan® — specialty biotech drugs that have been approved for two decades now. And they’re now behind Medicare Part B plan’s biggest expenditures — racking up more than 3 million in sales between the two of them.

What more is there to say? Big corporate interests will always rank ahead of your health, so long as these companies are allowed to call the shots.