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Here's why drug prices are high

Date published: 4/8/2014

Here's why drug prices are high

I would like to agree with Wayland Marks' March 31 complaint about high drug prices in the U.S. ["Congress should address drug-price disparities"].

However, he says, "there is no reason the charges in the U.S. should be so prohibitively expensive." I disagree.

Our Congress, in its wisdom, enacted the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, which refuses to let Medicare negotiate prices in the same way that the VA can, despite Medicare's enormous potential clout as a drug buyer.

And the FDA--which is, of course, a governmental agency under the control of politicians--forbids the importation of medicines from places like Canada, where prices are a bit more reasonable.

Could this in some way be connected to the fact that the health care industry spends $1.1 billion a year on lobbying--nearly twice what defense, aerospace, oil and gas spend combined?

Consider the story of former Rep. Billy Tauzen, who steered the Medicare Modernization Act through the House, retired soon after and took a $2 million-a-year job as president of PhRMA, the main industry lobbying group.

A total of 14 congressional aides quit their jobs to work for the drug and medical lobbies immediately after the bill's passage.

So people like Ginny Mason, as Dr. Marks noted, pay twice as much for a 30-day supply of their medicine in the U.S. as a six-month supply would cost in Canada.

And as a nation, it is estimated we could have saved $563 billion between 2006 and 2013 if Medicare had been allowed to negotiate drug prices.

Patrick Neustatter, M.D.