Column: Pharmaceutical companies drawing criticism on all fronts

With pharmaceutical companies under severe scrutiny from the public, presidential candidates and health care nonprofit organizations, any strategy to capitalize on health care should see disuse over the next year or so. (e-MagineArt.com/Flickr)

With pharmaceutical companies under severe scrutiny from the public, presidential candidates and health care nonprofit organizations, any strategy to capitalize on health care should see disuse over the next year or so.

Outrage ensued after Turing Pharmaceutical raised the price of a 62-year-old pill that is the standard care for treating deadly parasitic infections from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. Its founder and chief executive, steadfast and unapologetic, attempted to make the argument that with the profit on this drug, there could be research for a newer, more efficient drug and for doctors to become more educated about the delivery of the drug and the circumstances to use it in. 

Unfortunately, it seems the CEO may have overlooked who was paying the bottom line of this expensive venture. A more reasonable way of going about this is budgeting for this up coming research project and marketing it to potential donors rather than have currently ill patients choose between their mortality and financial ruin.

What’s even more unfortunate is that this isn’t an isolated incident. With the lack of supervision and limitations, pharmaceutical companies are getting away with murder. Quite literally, brand manufacturers are raising the cost of their prescription drugs while, in recent years, taking part in a practice called “paid to delay.” According to the New York Times, this means they can pay generic drug makers to hold off on releasing their pills to the market. During this delay, the brand manufacturers hold a monopoly on a drug that is in high demand and limited supply.

The inflated price of the drug is simply accepted without the option to overlook for a cheaper, generic version.

Another drug, Cycloserine, was acquired by Rodelis Therapeutics, which immediately raised the price from $500 for 30 capsules to $10,800 for 30 capsules according to the New York Times. The former owner was a nonprofit organization affiliated with Purdue University. Thankfully, the Purdue Research Foundation has oversight over manufacturing and the drug was returned to its former owner. Now, it is currently being sold for $10,050 for 30 capsules.

Cycloserine is used to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Thus, it isn’t used often but when it is needed it becomes a life or death matter. The problem is that to maintain and continuously produce certain amounts of the drug to have a supply readily available is independent of the demand of the drug. This results in an overall net loss for the company unless a massive outbreak of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis breaks out.

However, the drug is back in the hands of a company that maintains an affordable (loosely used and based on relativity to other drug prices) treatment as under Rodelis. The treatment would have cost the patient $500,000 while under the Chao Center, supervised by Purdue, the full treatment costs $50,000, according to the New York Times.

Now, there is a push by lawmakers and politicians alike to outline the limitations of pharmaceutical companies. Former President Bill Clinton calls for companies to explain and disclose where the costs are coming from. A drug’s cost being inflated several figures over night is alarmingly transparent in its true reasons.

Legislation to ensure the open disclosure of expenditures by pharmaceutical companies have been introduced in California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Massachusetts is noteworthy as they are able to set a maximum price on drugs if the price set by the manufacturer is largely profit oriented.

Some of the costs of which we are paying for when we buy pills at the at exorbitant price is for the meals and entertainment provided to doctors who offer their services in research, consultation, and giving speeches which is merely an added bonus to their paychecks. Think of all those events held by pharmaceutical companies where they prompt doctors to prescribe a certain brand of medication over shrimp cocktails.

Even Yale-New Haven Hospital charges patients $5 per Tylenol used in any visit. Of all the things to make a profit on, I strongly feel against twisting something as benign and altruistic as health care for profit. Having an environment like this only promotes the disparity we see in availability of health care and hopefully drawing more attention to this can help constrain the companies from taking advantage of their lack of oversight.


Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at jesseba.fernando@uconn.edu.