All high drug prices aren’t the same

It’s been gratifying to watch the world suddenly coalesce around the idea that EpiPens are ridiculously expensive. The next step is, of course, figuring out what to do about it. Unfortunately, a rallying cry I hear too often is that “drug prices are too high”.

Some drugs likely should be expensive. Or, at least, the pharmaceutical companies that make them should be rewarded.

When Sovaldi came out at what many considered a very high price tag, you didn’t see much rage from this blog. You didn’t see it from me, at least. A drug which cures Hepatitis C? That’s a huge deal, real innovation, and it’s arguably cheaper than the alternative. So… tens of thousands of dollars didn’t make me want to burn the house down.

On the other hand, the whole Daraprim thing was maddening. As are EpiPens. There’s no innovation there from Turing or Mylan. They’re not doing anything new. They’re just jacking up the price because our system allows it.

So what do we do? We’ve been arguing about this here at TIE almost from its inception. Here’s a piece from me in 2009. And 2010. Another from 2012. Austin had some thoughts at the Upshot last year. Today, Matthew Herper has one over at Forbes. Here’s the best part:

We shouldn’t pay for advertising for EpiPen or for Martin Shkreli’s desire to start a new company. We should pay for real innovation. As with any other financial decision, America needs a real discussion of what we want from pharma, and how much we’re willing to pay for it.

That last sentence there should be the theme of all health care reform. It’s all tradeoffs, people.


Hidden information below


Email Address*