Last week I commented on the unconscionable greed of the prescription drug companies, Pfizer in particular. The latter paid a $2.3 billion fine. According to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, the fine was for encouraging doctors to recommend a new drug, Bextra, for treatments not approved by the FDA. Indeed, the drug was withdrawn in 2005 because of its risks to the heart and skin.
In my commentary, I expressed my disagreement with President Barack Obama for supporting and continuing the Bush administration policy that bars Medicare from negotiating volume discounts on the drugs it purchases. I mistakenly stated its drug purchases exceeded $800 billion a year. Two readers wrote to me stating they believed that figure was too high. They were right, and I am sorry for the error. I wrote to Medicare asking what the annual purchases were and received the following e-mail:
“According to the 2009 Medicare Trustee report, Part D spending for fiscal years 2004-2013 is projected to be $378 billion compared to original estimates for the same period at the time of enactment of $634 billion.”
Nevertheless, a 30 percent volume discount if taken by Medicare would produce an annual cost savings to the government of approximately $114 billion.
I still maintain that the Pfizer executives, who allegedly authorized the illegal actions, should be criminally prosecuted. That is not being done. Further, I believe that Medicare should be allowed by law to negotiate volume discounts. Also, the agreement entered into with the prescription drug industry, which prohibits volume discounts and bars Americans by law from importing American-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada at discounted prices, should be repudiated by the president and Congress, preferably both.
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