The Road To Relief Is in Forcing Pharma Companies To Give More Beneficiaries Access To Low-Fee Drugs

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By the Drug Price Crisis blog, NRDC Vice President for Public Policy Jennifer Pahlka

Last week, the American company Pfizer announced that it would increase production of the drug hydrocodone – known as acetaminophen – in low-income countries, allowing more than a billion people to obtain the treatment for pain that had previously been out of reach. When hip, knee, shoulder, and back surgeries occur, it’s common for an emergency room doctor to prescribe acetaminophen for pain relief, leading to hospital stays that last anywhere from a day to three weeks, a period of time that can cost $6,000. These expensive long-term care services are not covered by insurance and are left to patients, families, and even governments in these poor countries to pay.

A few months ago, a UN Special Rapporteur called on governments worldwide to provide cheaper versions of key drugs so that lower-income and vulnerable patients can afford them. Governments should seize this opportunity to provide better drug options and more affordable care.

Here are several calls for action from the Drug Price Crisis blog

A World Health Organization report found that:

– Pharma companies make up 5% of the world’s richest companies, but profit 30% of the world’s richest corporations.

– Each year, multinational firms take in more than $800 billion in profits from selling medicines in poor countries

– Pharma companies increase prices of life-saving drugs 90 percent on average in countries where the drugs are used.

– Every year, five million people die due to drug pricing and poor access to medication, with most deaths in low- and middle-income countries

In December 2017, the most high-profile and well-documented example of abuse of high prices and lack of access to medications was exposed when drug giant Pfizer came under fire for hiking the price of a generic form of the widely-used codeine-containing analgesic Tramadol from 43 cents to $12.50 per pill.

In a speech last week, Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer, Ian Read, said: “These moves [lowering prices for countries with access issues] are simply the next step in our consistent global efforts to ensure we have the right resources in place to help people get access to medicines.”

1. The Underfunded, Unresolved Disaster That Is Pharmaceutical Pricing 2. New Solutions That Could Save Lives And Money (

2. Everything You Need To Know About How Big Pharma Robbed The Poor: How Big Pharma Is Leaving Millions Without Access To Drugs

About the author: Jennifer Pahlka is a writer and policy analyst based in the Washington, DC area. When she’s not writing, she’s swimming in 25-meter neoprene to swim for miles at a time, getting a taste of what it’s like to experience the world in the moments when we do. But instead of giving up the only passion she knows, she’s channeling her inner adrenaline junkie and channeling it into a powerful tool to stop drug company abuses.

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