Remember when you were in your last year of high school, had picked out your college and were just going through the motions to finish the year? Remember what it was like having one foot in college while still trying to finish up some less significant tasks in order to graduate? There was a feeling of comfort with the high school environment, but, if you were like me, you were definitely ready to move on and try different things. For a lot of us, during the last few months of high school there was an itch to do things differently. Sometimes these were rebellious things, such as the high school skip days and pranks, but other times there was a greater sense of boldness in the way we acted with teachers and administrators. We were starting to feel a sense of power.
The report that came out of Fox Business News from AARP last week is a real concern for those of us in the industry. It talks about “senioritis” in a different way. Take a look at the article and pretend that you are not an industry insider. The article talks about the 40-49% percent price increase for brand and specialty drugs during a time when inflation was only up 13%. Also note the generic companies are quick to point out their prices were down 31% during this same period.
Keep in mind they are not talking about the actual prices but merely the price increases. I recognize all the arguments from the industry’s side, but the issue is out there and it just festers. What is tough for the public to grasp is why a product that costs $4 a day a few years ago is now costing close to $6. What has changed? There was very little new R&D being done on the brand, less marketing is needed and to the outside world it seems that it is all about getting more money from patients who now rely on the therapy.
Perhaps the best way to view this is to go to the local gas station and start filling your tank. When you see that gas costs nearly $5 a gallon and you realize a year ago it was like $3 something, what does it make you think? I am sure you don’t feel sorry for the oil companies, for their increased costs of research or the higher risk of finding oil. Do you say it not the oil companies fault because they are in a tough geopolitical situation and the government is demanding more accountability after the BP Gulf problem? Do you say it is alright to raise prices because people are driving less and the companies need to make up for the lower usage? I guess I could go on but I hope you see the similarities between oil and our industry. The final question is the real dagger. If you could buy all the gas you wanted for like 45 cents a gallon, with the only difference being it is sold at a generic gas station rather than a brand name one, would you ever pay $5 again?
I can remember my last months of high school like it was yesterday. We were anxious to do anything possible to recover from a fiasco in Southeast Asia. We were sick of Watergate and political corruption. We were tired of our heroes being assassinated and our musicians dying of drug overdoses. We wanted greater rights for women and minorities. More than anything else, we knew we could do anything we wanted because the current ways were not working. We had the power, the enthusiasm and a huge appetite for change. We definitely would never had said the way to fix things was to do more of the same.
How about a little of this kind of thinking to change our industry? Let’s take charge and start to control our own destiny again. You see the the thing that really concerns me in the AARP article is the line about HHS and price controls through aggressive bidding. By increasing prices the way we have it almost appears as though we are “daring” them to do something rather than working together to drive costs down for everyone. Let’s begin to look at this with the freshness and vigor we had in our youth and recognize that the only way to fix this is for us to do it!