TV ads by drug firms against Prop. 61 condemned

Demand to stop price-gouging by big pharma

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — After news broke Friday that Mylan must pay $465 million for overcharging Medicaid for the EpiPen, mothers whose children rely on the life-saving allergy drug denounced drug company greed, and called on voters to pass Proposition 61 to stop drug company price-gouging and save lives.

Consumer Watchdog released an analysis revealing that eight of the top ten pharmaceutical industry donors fighting Proposition 61 have increased their profits by a combined $37 billion, or 20%, over the last decade – reaching a total of $214 billion in gross profits in 2015. All the while, these companies have increased the prices of prescription drugs by as much as 1000%.

Kathleen Hallal of Irvine spoke of the hardships caused by the rising cost of the EpiPen, which has gone up 500% to $608 in the last decade.

“Because of my sons’ allergies I have to buy several EpiPens a year, but even with insurance they can cost a fortune,” said Kathleen Hallal of Irvine. “Children can die without this medication and it shouldn’t be out of reach. I’m supporting Prop 61 because it’s time someone told the drug companies that their price-gouging is costing lives.”

Mylan’s EpiPen costs just dollars to make but earns the company more than $1 billion a year.

Statements exposed

Consumer advocates also exposed statements in the drug industry’s multi-million-dollar ad blitz against Prop 61 that claim it will increase prescription costs for veterans.

In one ad a veteran says: “This measure is going to cost veterans. And if this does pass, raising their prescription fees, they’re not going to be able to afford it. It’s either dinner on the table for the family or their medicine. Well they’re going to pick their family.” In a second ad, a veteran says: “Any nonveteran that I’ve spoke to about Prop 61 is totally amazed that anybody would do anything that would increase the costs for veterans. Any time you increase the cost of a copay for a veteran you put them in financial dire straits.”

The claim is unfounded, said Consumer Watchdog. Copays or prescription “fees” cannot go up under the initiative because veterans, depending on their status, pay co-pays as low as $0 and no more than $9.

“Drug companies like Mylan will continue to overcharge Californians until we pass Prop 61 to stop their price gouging. Mylan was caught by the US Justice Department ripping off the government, and that’s why we need Prop 61’s protections to prevent drug companies from ripping off California for all life-saving medicines. Voters should realize Prop 61 is about stopping drug companies from raising prices on all of us, not about deceptive drug company claims about what veterans pay for their drugs, which is capped under federal law,” said Carmen Balber, with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “When drug companies are jacking up prices by 1000% or more, it’s pretty obvious they aren’t spending $90 million against Prop 61 because they’re worried drug prices will go even higher. Threats of higher drug prices are just that, threats to keep California hostage their drug price gouging.”

Read the Consumer Watchdog analysis, “Drug Money: Price Increases and Big Pharma Profits,” here:

The report reviewed eight of the top ten drug company spenders against Prop 61 and found:

  • Eight drug companies increased their profits by 20% in total, from $177 billion in 2007, to $214 billion in 2014.
  • The eight companies spent $43 million to fight Prop 61, or 0.02% of their 2015 gross profits.
  • Gilead’s gross profits increased from $3 billion in 2007, to $28 billion in 2015 – a nearly 800% increase.
  • Allergan increased its gross profits by nearly 1000%, from $990 million in 2007, to $10.5 billion in 2015.

The report highlights instances of drug price gouging committed by the companies, including:

  • Gilead’s Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi has been marketed at $1,000 per pill. A 12-week treatment costs$84,000.
  • Astrazeneca raised prices of its cholesterol drug Crestor by over 100% over the last five years.
  • GlaxoSmithKline raised prices for asthma drug Advair by 67.4% over the last five years.

The eight companies analyzed were Merck, Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead, Amgen, Astrazeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. Gross profits refers to profits minus costs. Complete profit data was not available for Abbvie and Sanofi-Aventis, the final two top ten donors against 61. – PRNewswire-USNewswire

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