A plan by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) that encourages longstanding medicines to be medically tested is leading to sharp rises in the prices of drugs. Some of these prices are increasing by almost 2000%.
The FDA is trying to get medicines that existed before its founding to be tested and formally approved by the administration. Companies that test the old drugs are given temporary monopolies over these drugs, giving them total control over pricing, while rivals are phased out of the market.
The result has been a major increase in the prices of certain drugs.
One instance can be seen in a traditional gout treatment drug called colchicine. The medicine is so old that it was even used by the ancient Greeks. It once cost only 25 cents per pill. In 2010, the price skyrocketed to 2000% of that amount.
Rights for the drug were sold for $800 million in 2012 by smalltime drug producer URL Pharma to major Asian drug manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. The large Asian drug producer has experienced $1.2 billion in new revenue from the drug, which now costs nearly $6 per pill, a steep rise from the long-forgotten price of 25 cents.
Companies claim that FDA approval has made drugs safer. But in most cases, it has just made pharmaceutical companies richer.
Meanwhile, patients and hospitals are feeling the financial burden. Some politicians have started to address the issue, as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has mentioned the need to prevent drug prices from rapidly rising. After Clinton discussed the topic, pharmaceutical stock prices quickly plummeted.
Many health experts say that the vast majority of these recently-tested drugs were safe to begin with, and they had been safe for generations of continued usage. They claim that there is no reason to test these longstanding drugs, other than for the purpose of making money.
Pharmacy Professor at the University of Utah Joseph Biskupiak says, “The only drugs that got studied are the ones that don’t have a problem.”
The FDA states that some of the drugs had never been tested according to modern safety standards. The administration says that the program has been a success, and it has taken dangerous drugs off the market.
Officials from the FDA acknowledge that their testing might make some drugs more expensive. However, representatives do not care.
FDA spokesperson Christopher Kelly says, “The FDA does not regulate according to economic factors, nor do we have control over drug pricing.”
Clearly the FDA is abusing its powers to benefit the pharmaceutical industry. It’s taking once affordable medications and making patients and hospitals pay dearly for them.