Happy New Year! Your prescription prices are going up

The price of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013. Since 2008, drug companies have increased the price 10 times. Now, a group that tracks prescription drug prices says companies are starting the year by increasing prices on almost 300 medications.

It’s against that backdrop that the state of Minnesota sued the three top makers of insulin.

Good luck.

The companies say the mechanism by which they price their products — and the prices themselves — are trade secrets, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson tells CBS News for a story that ran this morning. So all mention is redacted from the lawsuit documents.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and we’re gonna be fighting that. Because these companies claim that certain information is trade secret. That it’s confidential. And that they and only they can see it,” said Swanson, whose time in office is about over.

“Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s a public lawsuit filed in court, but we can’t put the numbers in because they’re claiming it’s a trade secret and that nobody’s entitled to know or see that information,” Swanson said.

The companies say it’s not their fault that rebates and discounts are not passed along to consumers. Swanson doesn’t buy it.

Neither does Nicole Smith-Holt of Richfield, whose son died because he couldn’t afford $708 a month for his insulin and rationed it instead. Alec, 26, died alone in his apartment.

“Nobody to be there with him, to hold his hand or to call for help … and then I think about if he had never moved out, if he had lived at home, somebody would’ve, you know, seen the signs,” Smith-Holt said. “And I’ll probably feel guilty every day for the rest of my life.”

Keith Ellison, the incoming attorney general, has promised to continue the lawsuit.

Related: Want to know the true price of a hospital procedure? (Marketplace)

  • >>The companies say the mechanism by which they price their products — and the prices themselves — are trade secrets<<

    Uh huh, sure…

    • jon

      “We charge how ever much makes us the most money.”

      Oh no, I just accidentally exposed their trade secret online!
      I guess that eliminates the need for them to try to keep that genie in the bottle.
      We can get those court documents unredacted now.

      • Guest

        EXACTLY

  • Mike

    We’re all owned by the medical-pharmaceutical complex. I thought years ago that we had passed the point where people would tolerate having to go bankrupt due to illness, but there are always two utterly maddening key facts that remain foremost in my mind:

    1) Medicare is forbidden from negotiating drug prices on behalf of the public.
    2) We are the only large, developed economy in the world without universal healthcare.

    That is a self-evidently broken system. The cartel that controls healthcare in this country has made it clear that they will not tolerate any compromise or encroachment upon what they see as their turf, which just so happens to be the well-being of everyone.

    Therefore, the only solution is to elect people who aren’t beholden financially to the industry, who don’t care about negotiating with or placating them. With a few rare exceptions, these would not be Democrats or Republicans.

    • MikeB

      Agree with all except your last paragraph.

      • Mike

        It’s faith in the establishment that has gotten us to this point. I see no reason to believe why electing more Democrats and Republicans with financial ties to the industry will change anything. Rather, it’s incumbent on those who *do* believe that to explain their reasoning.

    • jon

      You list two problems, then you say that neither of the two parties will fix those two problems…

      Meanwhile, in reality, one of those two parties has, at least, a wing that is actively pushing to fix both of those two problems, and the other is actively campaigning and legislating against it when given the opportunity…

      • theoacme

        See “regulatory capture”, and realize that all presidents since Reagan (at least) have submitted to this insofar as FDA is concerned…and that all those presidents, and well over 99% of the members of Congress and all state legislatures and governor’s mansions have been either Republicans or Democrats…

        …see campaign contributions from the health care industry to Republicans and Democrats as well…

        …so Mike was too nice with his last sentence.

        • jon

          So the democrats and republicans of the reagan era are pushing the same policies and agenda as the republicans and democrats of the trump era, in your mind?

          Meanwhile, in reality… oh, I already did that part…

    • Maybe it’s time to bring back the buses to Canada.

      • KariBemidji

        Governor Dayton doesn’t have a lot on his plate right now. Maybe he can lead the caravan to Canada.

        • AL287

          Mark Dayton nearly died after his most recent back surgeries.

          It takes months to recover from that kind of physical insult.

          My guess is his lung impairment was the direct result from a reaction to either anesthesia or a medication.

          Lung failure is not a typical outcome of back surgery.

          He has A LOT on his plate right now.

          Give him a break.

      • Mike

        As a temporary measure, absolutely. Also the allowance to buy prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies.

    • Sonny T

      A vast, rather indifferent majority have health and prescription coverage paid by the employer. If they were exposed to the kind of danger this article highlights there would be change in a minute.

      • There aren’t many employers who pay 100% of the premiums for their employees, so they are exposed, particularly when co-pays are increasingly a percentage of the premium and not a flat fee. And, of course, there are the deductibles that must be satisfied.

        That said, yes, they are certainly insulated but it’s unclear how that would change.

        The drug companies have basically bribed Congress to do nothing.

        • Sonny T

          Very accurate. The increases might finally get the voter motivated.

          About seven or eight years ago I told a stranger my deductible was six grand. He burst out laughing. I’ll bet he’s not laughing anymore.

      • Jim in RF

        I don’t know the answer but I wonder if that’s (majority) true, Sonny. Millions are on Medicare, millions buy a private plan through Obamacare and millions aren’t on anything. I wonder if even 50% are covered by an employer plan anymore (and only 50%-75% of the premiums of those are paid by employers).

        • Sonny T

          I should have said employer/Medicare/government subsidized. These people are reasonably covered (i.e. don’t have giant deductibles).

          There is a slice of society which is left behind. They make 40K or more and fall outside of the above. For them, Obamacare did little more than bolt into place a system (private insurance) which they can’t use.

          • Medicare isn’t income limited at 65+. And even for those <65 (disabled etc) , like those 65+, people pay monthly premiums. And co pays. And 20%. And have deductibles. And they pay out of pocket for Parts B & D

            Obamacare's provisions on things like preventive care coverage without copayments, parity, pre-existing conditiosn extended fully to people on employer assisted plans. Obamacare also closed the infamous "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug plans. And for those in the coal belt, it guaranteed black lung coverage regardless of how you get your insurance.

          • Sonny T

            http://www.startribune.com/more-minnesotans-driven-to-choose-high-deductible-health-insurance/156469135/

            This is the segment of worker I was talking about. MN was going to extend some kind of stopgap help. But it highlights the cruelty of private insurance. And yes, high premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are creeping into the rest of the population. It has to end, and hopefully will, when enough of us stand up and say, no more.

          • Ah, well that’s a seven year old story now that I don’t believe still valid because Minnesota changed the reinsurance system to socialize the risk and privatize the reward for insurance companies.

          • Sonny T

            Hmm … I’ll have to check this out. I still have a $10,000 deductible.

          • Right, but presumably that’s because you chose the high deductible because you didn’t want to pay a higher premium. That’s always been the foundation of all insurance.

          • Sonny T

            Okay I checked it out. I have a $6,500 deductible and pay $900 a month.

            I hope the “foundation” wobbles, cracks, and collapses into dust. What a rip.

          • Guest

            yep, that is about what one share of US Healthcare runs.

          • Sonny T

            The deal is I can take it. Not to brag.

            The problem is the couple that cleans the front office. I’ll guess they make 80k a year, combined.She works 20 hours per week, nights, instead of 40, because he comes with and helps. Then he works a FT job, days.

            We compared insurance. He pays the same as me. They’re holding off bringing kids in to emergency, because they can’t afford it. And liberals are telling me what a great deal Obamacare is. That’s pretty sick, no pun intended.

          • With those kind of numbers , I’d self insure.

          • Sonny T

            Not sure what you mean. This is insurance bought on the open market. This is what it costs.

            Sorry Bob. Not to poke liberals. But sometimes I feel like I’m the only real liberal around here.

  • Angry Jonny

    Health care is survival of the richest.

    • Ben Chorn

      I went in for some blood tests recently, and half the cost wasn’t even covered by insurance. Even with insurance costs to see a doctor are too high. I have decided not to get checked out for something because I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars

      • Guest

        Doc, my schedule is packed, I don’t have time for a check-up.

        OK, how well does death work into your schedule?

        • Every state should allow assisted suicide as a reasonable health care alternative to leaving a family bankrupt.

          • Guest

            soooo assisted suicide for money???

  • Guest

    Yes, it is a violation of contract law for the public to know the ultimate price paid by an insurer to a Doctor, Hospital, or Drug maker.

    It is all covered by contracts and everybody wants the best terms for themselves so everybody agrees to negotiate separately and then does not want anyone else to get the same discount…….so contract provisions are allowed to be kept legally secrete.

    Does everybody get to know what you paid for your car, even if you don’t want them to?

    • Jack Ungerleider

      No, but some of the contracts should be public documents as they are business with the government (Medicare or Medicaid or VA). At least that information, how they determined the price they charge the government should be public.

      I have relatives that work for government in the state of New York. My understanding is that anyone can go online and see what they made in income last year. As a public employee their pay is a matter of public record. Shouldn’t the same hold true for public contracts?

      • Guest

        The downside is the maker would no longer have any reason to offer a big customer a deep discount. Once that best discount is known, everyone else wants it.

        Either we all pay the very same price (big and small) or it is dog-eat-dog power negotiations.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          From what I’ve read in the last few months they’re not doing that anyway. They are raising the prices and then giving individual patients discount coupons. It’s the tag line on almost every pharmaceutical ad these days:
          “If you can’t afford your medication, [insert name of manufacturer here] can help.”

          • Guest

            Yep, just like college tuition, charge high, collect from those able to pay high and give discounts, rebates, tuition breaks to those not so able to pay high.

            See charge what the traffic will bear and law of supply and demand.

          • theoacme

            Those laws kill people when it comes to healthcare, which is why any political party that doesn’t move to stop concupiscently worshipping “free markets” is morally guilty of the death of every person who dies because they can’t afford medical care due to the avaricious greed of the health corporations.

          • Guest

            Oh, I am NOT disagreeing with you.

            Just pointing out we will have consequences of whatever is chosen. There is a limit to the bank, no country can offer all care for everybody AND no restrictions on price AND encourage investments in the next advancement.

            DO we want the UN to fund medical / pharmacy advancements for the world?

          • jon

            When medical company A wants to charge $50,000 for MRI maintenance, and medical company B wants to charge $100,000 for MRI maintenance, it’s obvious which contract to pick, and which company will soon find they have no business (all else created equal). and if company C finds a way to do the same work for $5,000 they can enter the market and completely clean up…

            now when company A wants to charge REDACTED and company B wants to charge REDACTED, company C has no idea if their new method is going to save money or not…

            Hiding the contract figures isn’t particular free market, and it doesn’t have the socialist spin that the college analogy puts on it either…
            It’s really more about eliminating the market, and pricing not by what the market will bare, but by what the individual organization will bear. We’ll charge you as much as you are willing to pay, and not a cent less.

          • Guest

            BINGO, you are spot on. Each buyer pays what the seller can wring out of them for the very same product. Not telling the public the lowest price accepted, is good for the seller.

  • AL287

    Prior to 1922 there was no treatment for type I diabetes. Insulin had not been discovered until then. You died from secondary effects—organ failure including the heart and the kidneys.

    The first effective antibiotic for infection was a sulfonamide marketed as prontosil in 1935.

    Penicillin was first made available in 1942. Without it, many more GI’s would have died from gangrene and sepsis in WW II.

    Had hypertension drugs been available during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, he might have finished his fourth term as POTUS.

    Many simple and advanced antibiotics are no longer effective because they were demanded too many times by patients for viral infections like the common cold or patients stopped taking the medication because “they felt better” creating superbugs like multi-drug resistant tuberculosis as bacteria developed resistance to all but the most powerful antibiotics which have serious and damaging side effects of their own including kidney damage and hearing and vision damage.

    Research funding used to come from non-profit organizations like The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation or the Commonwealth Fund. Now the money comes from profit-seeking “investors.”

    If the FDA would stop allowing pharmaceutical companies to combine drugs soon to go off patent with patent-expired drugs extending the patent and seriously raising the price, we might see the prices go down.

    Type I diabetes can be successfully controlled with needle/syringe injectable insulin but it takes discipline and careful planning and was treated that way for decades before the outrageously expensive insulin analogs and their pens were invented in the early aughts.

    Bottom line?

    No medication is effective if the patient can’t afford it or won’t take it because of nasty side effects. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

    We demand better and more effective medications but we also demand convenience.

    Sometimes the convenience is just not worth it.

    • Guest

      insightful, thanks

  • toyboata-friend of the pod

    i wonder how prices would be impacted if the PBMs in the middle disappeared. that’s where the rebates and discounts are going.

    • Guest

      It would be much more expensive for every pharmacy to work with every insurance company and every customer’s plan and deductions and copays.

      You would have Big Pharma and the local Rexall drug store……..not gonna get cheaper in those negotiations. 🙂

      • toyboata-friend of the pod

        PBMs are in between pharma and the insurance companies. insurance companies handed off management of drug benefits to the PBMs. insurance never negotiated with individual pharmacies.

        • Guest

          True, but insurance companies work with PBMs on total Medical + RX deductibles and such.

          • toyboata-friend of the pod

            and? that’s what i said. the PBMs take the discounts and rebates and pocket them. it’s their “fee”.

            PBM=PHARMACY benefit management. they manage the pharmacy benefit, not the entire insurance package.

          • Guest

            Very true, the point being without any PBMs there is nobody between the pharmacist and Big Pharma and the hassle of dealing with reporting everything to every insurance company IS a big hassle.

            PBMs make life easier for consumers and pharmacists…..and soak up rebates to stay in business.

  • Guest

    A) Investors put up money to find new drugs that are both safe and effective……and profitable.

    B) Taxpayers are willing to fund another Billion dollar bet that did not pan out as hoped….and go back to the table for more money on the next try.

    Other countries basically use our drug companies to find the next best thing.

    • Jay T. Berken

      You are leaving out research and development in our university system that is highly funded by the fed and state. Companies then take that research and make it profitable. It would be interesting how much of the pharmaceuticals are handed down from US universities vs. in house research and what the companies pay for that research.

      • John

        Companies purchase the rights to develop that research from the University to try to make it profitable.

        There is a LOT of space between University Research and viable product.

        • Jay T. Berken

          “a LOT of space”

          That is a broad statement and I kind of question that. I guess it is the chicken and egg question. Would these drug ever come in fruitation without the university R&D or would the corporation have invented them anyway.

          I can agree that one cannot be without the other to thrive.

      • jon

        This is inline with what I said on the china moon lander thread…

        Governments make investments in discovering the unknown, then private industry will make the investment in monetizing whatever they find…

        While a university might uncover that a particular molecule has a certain effect on cancer cells, a company will the the ones to invest in finding ways to mass produce that particular drug or something similar enough to be effective, push it through the clinical trials and FDA regulation and bring it to market (with a patent on whatever modified useful version of it they uncovered in the process.)

        Major breakthroughs in the basic science that the pharma companies use come largely from government funded research and small organizations, major breakthroughs in how to exploit those effect in a financially viable way come from corporations.

        It’s very rare that a large corporation will puts R&D funds into something without a risk assessment around the potential ROI and potential losses for a failure to deliver… And if the risk outweighs the reward, that project isn’t going anywhere.

        • Guest

          YES, we agree. It is the bucks between the research paper and the shelves we are talking about.

        • Jay T. Berken

          On your last paragraph…that is why we have so many boner pills. ROI is not exactly on vaccines and flu shots being a yearly dose or one time shot. But these keep us alive.

  • Guest

    IF I found a pill that cost one dollar to make that would cure X cancer…..how much SHOULD I be allowed to charge for it (1/2 of everything you own?).

    IF I was forced to sell my cure for cancer X at $2 a pill, who would invest in finding the next cancer cure pill?

    Either we make medical advances very profitable
    or we ask taxpayers to fund advancement attempts
    or we limit profits and those who want to get rich invest elsewhere…..and there are fewer medical advancements.

    Choose your consequences.

    • RBHolb

      Advancement “attempts” are not especially profitable. Only advances–successful attempts–are. This is why taxpayers are funding attempts. The medical industry picks up the ones that work when they have reason to anticipate that they will work.

      Remember that one of the likely consequences of letting medical advances be as profitable as possible is that people will die, or suffer needlessly.

      • Guest

        We agree on the likely consequences. However the medical industry still loses big wads of cash that will rile taxpayers and kill election hopes….because “Yes we spent $$$ but it was worth it to find out what did not work”…..is a hard sell.

  • Jeff

    To paraphrase the Onion: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

  • The Resistance

    When I no longer see photocopied public invitations on my hometown grocery store’s bulletin board for spaghetti feed benefit suppers to pay for someone’s healthcare costs, I’ll know we’ve finally started tackling the healthcare crisis in this country.

    • Jeff

      A healthcare fundraiser index.

  • kevins

    I don’t mind anyone making an honest profit, and funding for research is a MUST. I don’t, however, trust large multinational corporations to have the interests of ill individuals at the top of their minds, or on their minds at all. Because of this, we must enable a balance between innovation, profit and humane and effective treatment of somatic and mental diseases. In my opinion, only the power of the government can create balanced conditions, if it is wise enough and motivated enough to do so. God help us if it is not.

    • Guest

      Government IS big enough, the trouble is there are 300 million views of just where that balance should fall.

  • Ben Chorn

    Says youtube video was removed. Looks like it is still working on CBS website. Ironically got a life insurance ad before video played

    • Fixed. That happens a lot with CBS. No idea why. Maybe an edited version was put up.

  • Guest

    What part of raising prices is a criminal act, greedy yes but still legal.

  • Mike Worcester

    As a Type II diabetic who is not insulin dependent at this point, I shudder what it will cost me when that day comes. The perscription pills are bad enough.