This is What’s Cannibalizing the US Economy

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The sector is booming, but it’s a costly boom.

In the sluggish US economy, the goods-producing sector has been in decline since late 2014, but sales in its biggest sub-sector are booming: medicines.

Drugs are a physically small part of the goods-producing economy. But in terms of dollars, they’re the elephant in the room: According to the wholesales report by the Commerce Department, total drug sales by manufacturers to pharmacies, hospitals, and others in the distribution chain jumped 11.3% from a year ago (not seasonally adjusted) to $54.3 billion.

That was the largest of the wholesale categories in the report: larger than “Groceries” ($51.5 billion), “Electrical” ($45.0 billion),”Petroleum” ($43.4 billion), and Automotive ($36 billion). Drug sales accounted for 12.2% of total wholesales. For the last 12 months, it was 12.0%.

In May a year ago, manufacturers sold $48.8 billion in drugs, or 11.3% of total wholesales. In May 2014, drugs accounted for 9.4% of total wholesales. In May 2013, it was 9.1%. In May 2012, it was 8.8%.

You get the idea. Drug sales at the wholesale level account for an ever larger portion of total wholesales.

Total wholesales rose 0.3% in May year over year. Without the $5.5 billion increase in sales of drugs, total wholesales would have fallen 0.9% year-over-year.

Are Americans really consuming that much more in pharmaceutical products? Hardly: According to the Producer Price Index, prices charged by manufacturers of pharmaceutical products jumped 9.8% in May from a year ago.

So the Wall Street Journal reviewed corporate filings and conference-call transcripts of the 20 largest members of Big Pharma in the US and found that over two-thirds had attributed their sales increases in the first quarter at least in part to jacking up prices. Among them:

Pfizer disclosed that price increases (and in some cases, higher volume of prescriptions) pushed up revenues for nine drugs that together reached $2 billion in the US.

Biogen disclosed that its 15% year-over-year sales increase of multiple-sclerosis drug Tecfidera “was primarily due to price increases,” and sales of its other big drugs, Avonex and Tysabri, were also propped up by price increases.

Amgen reported that global sales of anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel had soared 24% year-over-year to $1.39 billion, powered largely by a higher “net selling price.” According to Leerink Partners, cited by the WSJ, the company had jacked up its US list price of Enbrel by 28% in 2015. In July, it slapped on an additional 9.9% so that sales in 2016 would look better.

AbbVie managed to increase the net price of its anti-inflammatory drug Humira, including all rebates and discounts, by 18% in the US in 2015, which helped sales soar by 32% in the first quarter to $2.2 billion. Higher prescription volume (at these higher prices) accounted for the remainder.

Drug pricing is purposefully opaque and complex to the point where actual prices charged after all rebates and discounts remain difficult to track. There are ways to get some info, however. The WSJ:

But companies often describe in regulatory filings the factors behind product sales growth or declines, including the impact of net pricing, after all the rebates and discounts they give insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers are taken into account.

Drugmakers often tout these discounts off their list prices as evidence of a competitive marketplace where powerful health insurers check their pricing power. But drug companies’ financial disclosures show that net prices in many cases continue to rise, and boost revenue, despite these discounts.

“Companies are very fond of saying, ‘No, no, don’t pay any attention to list price increases,’” Geoffrey Porges, a Leerink analyst, told the WSJ. “The industry sort of hiding behind that is really a diversionary tactic.”

How do drugmakers get the power to raise prices like this, in a sluggish economy where competition is supposed to restrain price increases, and where many consumers, struggling to make ends meet and unable to pay for these higher prices, would normally kill demand when companies try to jack up prices?

The US health-care system, backed by patent laws, has consistently stifled competition. It encourages the formation of monopolistic structures via Big-Pharma takeovers funded by cheap credit and booming financial markets, in an environment where the consumer of those drugs often doesn’t pay for them directly, but where third parties, like insurance companies and state and federal agencies, pay for them.

Insurance companies have trouble saying no to consumers who need the drugs. In turn, they’re not in a strong negotiating position with the drugmakers. So they haggle over price the best they can, and then turn around and increase their premiums.

Drugmakers have figured this out. They’re in nirvana. They know they can get away with this in the US, though perhaps not in other countries.

Congress has steadfastly refused to take on this issue and crack down on the abuses, despite some rumblings here and there – thanks to the irresistible lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry. And imbued with this kind of pricing power, drugmakers will continue to jack up prices until the last dime has been squeezed out of consumers and the economy.

But on paper, these soaring sales, based on soaring prices, look good for GDP that the government wants to tout. The price increases look good in the inflation figures that the Fed wants to tout. And investors are soaking up the money, unless a drug company crumbles under the weight of its own schemes, like Valeant. And so this remains one of the few booming sectors of the US economy though it comes at a great expense for the rest of the economy and consumers.

These strung-out American consumers already have enough on their hands. Read… Why this Won’t Work out: Rampant Rent Inflation Collides with Stagnant Incomes

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  72 comments for “This is What’s Cannibalizing the US Economy

  1. WorldBLee
    July 15, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    This is such an important topic for the American economy. GDP is such a meaningless figure in many ways due to the effects of financial engineering and, as this article points out, manipulated drug pricing in a monopoly market that sucks the dollars out of American wallets. Thanks for the analysis, Wolf.

  2. Californiawoman
    July 15, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Drug companies days are numbered. There is a new specialty called Functional Medicine that bypasses most drugs. It is cutting edge and is becoming extremely popular.

      July 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      READ 2 books and all this will become clear:

      WHEAT BELLY, Dr. Davis
      GRAIN BRAIN, Dr. Perlmutter

      Oh, one of the plans, of those who intend to take away any guns from law-abiding citizens, is the goal of making gun ownership ILLEGAL for anybody on “psycho” drugs. You ever use Lexapro? Xanax? Prozac? Well, your “right” to own a gun will be abolished.

      Who pumped MILLIONS into “health care” and research.? Whose Family funded MILLIONS of dollars into the University of Chicago Medical research?

      Please, I am tired of being the only adult in the room.

      • nlightn
        July 17, 2016 at 8:53 am

        Oh God,…get over your self. You’ve got a few grains of information, read a few books and you think you’ve got the world economy and health figured out. Sheeeshhh.

        “Please, I am tired of being the only adult in the room.”

        News Flash,…The fact that you have to point that out is why you are not !

      • mike nicksic
        July 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        Well, the Pritzger family of Chicago for sure. Made billions in real estate, mining, hotels and manufacturing OEM auto parts. Not a dime from Pharma so far as I know. And has also donated billions to many civic causes. Much contrast to the Trump family.

        Perhaps you’re confusing them with Pfizer

      • falconflight
        July 18, 2016 at 11:58 am

        You’re absolutely correct, and you probably are one of the few adults in the room. I’m convinced at this point that the public will never, sans a few percent, realize just what a corrupt, criminal party, fascist state is the US.

  3. robert h siddell jr
    July 15, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Banksters are also Cannibalizing America.

  4. Bobcat
    July 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    There’s a big box drug store at every major intersection. At some intersections, there are two. And they have plenty of business. We know what that business is. They are peddling opioids and other profitable cures worse than the disease. Today’s prescription drug and heroine epidemic can be laid at big Pharma’s feet. That is some of the cost of their boom.

    • frederick
      July 17, 2016 at 5:40 am

      Totally true Cat I was prescribed much of this poison during my nasty divorce and honestly the only thing that helped was counseling and a one milligram of valium for about a month to help with the insomnia Doctors are way too quick to prescribe these SSRI and 0pioid poisons IMO They may have their place however limited Big Pharma=big money so it wont change without a fight

      • Red Rock
        July 18, 2016 at 8:25 am

        Sobriety is a radical act today.
        Choosing to actually feel pain is exactly what they don’t want, because then we change and grow.

        • Bernhard
          July 21, 2016 at 10:42 am

          Ditto !

  5. OutLookingIn
    July 15, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    Big pharma freely pours money around Washington.

    Has one of the largest stables of Washington lobbyists.

    Does not matter if its the blue or red team. Both get greased.

    Big money gets what big money wants. Always will. Basic greed.

  6. unit472
    July 16, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Its a scandal alright but the healthcare industry is impervious to economic reality. I was prescribed an immuno suppressant drug last year. It worked. It worked so well I was told to go to the emergency room as I had become neutropenic, i.e. I had no immune system.

    I was put in isolation and hospital staff were required to wear masks when they came into the room for infection control. When a ‘hospitalist’ wandered in, without a mask on, I questioned him as to why it was necessary to keep me in the hospital since the only treatment I was being given was a daily injection of granax. The ‘hospitalist’ said that if I were to contract any “bug” I would likely need intravenous antibiotics to which I replied ” I only live 8 miles from the hospital and if my temperature rose or I felt ill there were things called cars, taxis, even ambulances that could bring me back to the hospital. That keeping me in a hospital room was costing my insurer and me thousands of dollars per day for a $100 shot.

    He said his medical degree outranked my financial concerns so I spent 5 days in the hospital. The bill came and it was for $40,000. Cigna, my insurer agreed to pay $15,000 and I was billed for $5000. They just don’t care!

    • night-train
      July 16, 2016 at 3:55 am

      Unit: Reading your story, I guess I was lucky, but still pizzed off. My Dr. recently changed a med that was working for me with one that messed me up for a week. When I asked why it was changed, I was told DEA was considering changing the original drug’s schedule and that my insurance company didn’t want to pay for the drug for use for treatment of chronic conditions. After they realized my distress, the re-prescribed the original, but now I have to pay the full freight.

      Does it really matter that you can keep your Dr. if the DEA and insurance companies are making all the treatment decisions?

      • July 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

        I guess you mean the “FDA” (Food and Drug Administration … for medicines) not “DEA” (Drug Enforcement Division … illicit drugs, the “War on Drugs”)

        I know, the federal alphabet soup gets confusing ;-)

        • night-train
          July 17, 2016 at 2:55 am

          Wolf: Actually, I do mean the DEA. They have pushed for rescheduling drugs to further their never-ending war on drugs. They bully doctors into turning patients away and into refusing to continue treatment regimens, no matter how effective they may have been, or continue to be. I am not talking about addicted individuals, or doctor shoppers. I am referring to patients with medically diagnosed conditions using medications responsibly.

          I realize that the situation I describe is beyond the scope of your blog. But, if you have a few minutes sometimes, Google something like “War on chronic pain sufferers”.


        • July 17, 2016 at 1:53 pm

          Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

      • Red Rock
        July 18, 2016 at 8:29 am

        That’s amazing…the DEA sees that all drugs will soon be legalized, thanks to the GMO processing of Marijuana by Monsanto and the development of the new super-powerful opioids ….so they are making sure they have an existence as an agency.

        The parasites mutate for survival!

  7. Marty
    July 16, 2016 at 1:14 am

    CAwoman and bobcat are heading in the right direction. Here’s the truth: patent medicines are a scam, coming from one of the biggest fraud family in world history, the rockefellers. The vast majority of people’s health probs are due to poor diet and lifestyle. We don’t need drugs for that. Stop putting that garbage in your mouth and exercise. Detox is important, too. That’s it. no need for the overpriced disaster of a sick care system. Don’t go to mds for anything except a car accident. they are quacks.

    medical care is a drag on the economy, and that includes supposed “revolutionary new drugs and therapies.” The don’t add to productivity and burden both patients and business with astronomical and unnecessary costs.

    Big pharma is pumping us up with dangerous anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs where there is no physical evidence that problems exits.

    Statins cause Alzheimer’s. Vaccines cause autism (and allergies). They are creating vast numbers of mentally crippled people.

    Cancer has been curable for decades through various natural remedies suppressed by big pharma.

    All this inhumane horror could end tomorrow, much to the benefit of the entire population in terms of health and finances if we would simply eat healthy, exercise and detox. TOMORROW all of this would be solved. Yet we are too drugged and weak-minded to see it.

    • nhz
      July 16, 2016 at 5:26 am

      Agree; the Big Pharma complex is extremely good at promoting and growing its business at the cost of society; just like the military-industrial complex and Wall Street, but even more addictive (especially nowadays, as some medically created problems are passed on to new generations).

      I’m a biochemist and get to see some things that go on behind the scenes in medical ‘science’. It is at least as corrupt at the financial industry.

      And just to be sure: it is not just the Big Pharma mob and medical scientists, much of the public is complicit e.g. many patient organizations willingly lend themselves to help Big Pharma push more and more expensive drugs through the general publics’ throat because they are ‘entitled to it’ and of course many feel entitled to the most expensive drugs (not the most effective ones, if one could even figure out which one that is). In my country the representatives of some patient groups make more money than the highest government officials, one has to wonder why …

      e.g. Alzheimer organizations are already lobbying for extremely expensive ‘preventive’ medicine that hasn’t even been proven to work (I’m pretty sure it doesn’t) and that should be taken for life by everyone over 35 or so, of course fully covered by healthcare insurance. We know that Alzheimer and many other diseases are related to modern lifestyle which means one can do a lot about the risk without taking expensive and probably dangerous drugs.

      And don’t think the US is any different than the rest of the world, in Europe there are also huge yearly cost increases for drugs, especially the most expensive ones (which don’t end up in inflation statistics for some reason, even though medical care is now by far the biggest part of the government budget).

      • Robert
        July 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm

        For millions of Americans watching the beloved Phil Mickelson advertising Enbrel, it apparently never dawns on them that the very high cost of advertising at the Masters, or the Superbowl is coming right out of their pockets, and not just the users, but everyone Shanghai’d into Obamacare.
        Many years ago, in a rare moment of wisdom, Congress banned TV cigarette ads despite all the industry lobbying. With health care costs soaring higher than tobacco ever did, you would think there would be a movement to do likewise with all prescription drug advertising. Ask your Congressman if paying $5,000,0000 a minute Enbrel ads is right for you- no, don’t bother, demand he stop it.

        • mike nicksic
          July 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm

          Congress, specifically The Republican Tribe, legally forbade Medicare and Obamacare plans from negotiating drug prices.

    • Drumpfabooie
      July 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      Marty has probably heard of TC Fry and Victoria Bidwell of ‘Get Well, Stay Well America’ fame. The sweetest, most wonderful woman came into my life who actually worked with them, helping folks to restore and/or improve their health. She is now one of the senior managers of a health foods/organic grocery company. She does all the ordering and computer maintenance. She truly is a Godsend, she really tuned up my body. Being that I travel all the time it is a challenge to your health, all the temptation to snack, overindulge at buffets and order fast food. Admittedly, I was in sad shape when we met. It wasn’t easy but with her help I lost 60 lbs and went back to my ol’ high school tight end weight. Everything health related improved so much, even my eyesight. I love her immensely!!

    • July 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      I agree with Marty. I’m 55, landscaper for 20 years, Bike ride 40+ miles/week. Have 5 acres of grass, cut with 48″ Scag walk behind 3+ hours on Sat, and Sun. Run in winters, Eat salads every day, no sugar, no processed foods, no animal protein at all, Vegan as close as possible (a little milk in my coffee) I am lucky as I don’t go to doctors at all, My health is good. I redid my roof by myself this year, I don’t know anyone who can do that at age 40 ( I know they exist, I don’t know anyone personally) I know many people my age that are already under doctors care, they look old. And they are on several of the wonders of science & Wall Street talked about in this story….. Yah, I know I could die tomorrow, so what…..


  8. Agnes
    July 16, 2016 at 1:14 am

    This is just my speculation: When the derivatives crunch sucked the liquidity out of the market in 2007-8, the life and health insurance companies were not bailed out because the American consumer fully believed their premiums were all sitting there or safely invested and would indeed have arisen with pitchforks if they had been told “so sorry we gambled with that money also”. Thus Obamacare–enforced premiums to resurrect the insurance companies. As for alternatives to Big Health–they are under attack, continuously. Like the news that fasting for 3 days re-ups the WBC manufactuory in the bones was Huge—but swamped immediately by “other health news”.

  9. Bryce Nelson
    July 16, 2016 at 1:17 am

    This article hits close to home since I have multiple sclerosis. You do not want to have a chronic disease in America. It is a nightmare to deal with the disease, but it becomes torture when you include how messed up our healthcare system is. This isn’t just an issue about costs, there are real people getting the shaft and suffering from the largesse seen in this industry. Below is a chart so you can see the cost of multiple sclerosis drugs over the last few decades. It is staggering and will upset anyone who isn’t 100% invested in biotech.

    Pharma has the biggest lobbying arm by far and that chart helps confirms that their money is being well spent. It isn’t even a close comparison to the next closest industry in regards to lobbying. With that money they buy our politicians to screw us while charging us 10x the cost on lube. Private health insurance makes up about 10% of our total GDP. Most countries spend around 10% total of GDP on healthcare. Well in ‘Murica we spend 10% on private health insurance alone. We spend about 17% of our total GDP on healthcare. That must make our healthcare the best right? Unfortunately, that isn’t the truth when it comes to outcomes or access.

    We are talking around 1.8 trillion dollars worth of control in the hands of these private insurance companies alone. That is a staggering amount of money which we all know is used to buy influence. In the US we waste about 1 trillion per year on healthcare. That 1 trillion wasted per year is protected by lobbyists and lawyers as far as the eye can see.

    I believe the only chance for the US to right the ship is to tackle our exorbitant healthcare costs and getting money out of politics. I also think we could save about another 400 billion if we could fix our obesity problem. High fructose corn syrup isn’t helping anyone but the farmers and big food companies. That is 1.4 trillion dollars up for grab. Every time our government has tried a rational solution to our healthcare costs, they get called “communists or socialists.” Yes I am talking about universal healthcare in one way, shape, or form. Call it single payer, multi payer, or medicare for all. Something must be done because we are at a breaking point, and with our aging population it will only get worse.

    This is why solving our healthcare issues are such a big deal. Let’s just say we get rid of the waste in healthcare, we have 1 trillion to play with. We could “afford” to balance our budget all of a sudden. We could also afford for everyone to have affordable healthcare. Think of how different of a country we would be living in if we had affordable healthcare and a balanced budget while tackling our mountain of debt. It sure would be a different investing climate. I worry about our long term security and future because we are on an unsustainable path. Whether it be our debt, healthcare costs and access, or college costs. Extrapolate the costs out another 10-15 years and nothing works anymore.

    The bigger issue is our unfunded liabilities. After fixing healthcare and balancing the budget there would still be about 400 billion leftover which could be used to fund a lot of things, like lowering taxes and paying off debt while putting money towards our unfunded obligations. Our economy will not start growing at a rate that we consider normal until our debt to GDP goes below 90%. If you want even more growth than that get our debt to 50% of GDP. Government debt is crowding out productive private debt. That government debt really hurts us since we are blowing it on unproductive activities.

    At this point in the game, I can’t think of any other way of us actually paying off our debt besides tackling healthcare. It is the giant elephant in the room. The entire industry is filled with collusion, crony capitalism, and greed. I don’t have much hope since our government if filled with greedy idiots that put themselves before their own country. Anti-intellectualism is on the rise which is more than concerning. Democracy is great until you talk to the average voter :) We can’t even balance our budget at this point. Unfunded liabilities are the light at the end of the tunnel, too bad those lights happen to be an incoming train. I have very little faith in our country solving any of these problems until we are in a crisis. Right now we are standing on the edge of a precipice while we stare into the abyss.

    • Red Rock
      July 18, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Good health takes a huge effort today. Americans mostly spend time on entertainment and shopping. The net is full of information on how to make changes in our lives, despite the pressure to cave in and be a victim. Myself, when my health was bad, I agreed to medicate instead of study how to become free and well.It took years of patient progress to become well again, but it was worth the effort. No HFC for 12 years, no processed food, no wheat, corn or soy. No GMO. No alcohol. Good luck to you in your health path.

      July 18, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Single Payor Health Care?

      Why stop there. Let us have Single Payor Auto Insurance and Home Owners insurance.

      Single Payor College Tuition and Single Payor Restaurant Bills.

      Get it? I’m the “health care business” and nothing makes us salivate more than “Single Payor” where there is NO competition, NO way out and Nobody can stop it. Money money money.

      • Dave89143
        July 20, 2016 at 11:11 pm

        Medicare is in the hole about $100 trillion. People like “single-payer” because the seniors use it and pass the cost onto the young folks and the unborn.
        Wanna hear a good one? There are people who actually believe that the Soc Sec and Medicare taxes withheld from their pay, and matched by their employer, are somehow set aside to be used in the future.

        • July 23, 2016 at 1:43 pm

          Soc. Sec. and Medicare are great programs. And if they were the Single Payer programs, and run properly we would not have medical – health care problems in this country. You know who I would like to see run for and become president/congress/and the fed. The GAO, and the people who do Frontline on PBS You know why….. They always figure out when something don’t add up, and they point it out… But no one ever fixes it. And what is even funnier, AntennaTV started running the Carson show again, and they were making jokes about the same S*&^ 30+ years ago…… I would venture to say that if this country lasts another 10 years it will all still be the same…. (10 is all I’m willing to go).

    • micromacroman
      July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Thank You Bryce Nelson for this concise well thought out and very well written article. Your comments are better than the original article. You precisely identify the problem and offer solutions. The people who read wolf (most) are the best and thoughtful people. I so enjoy reading the comments section on wolfstreet because of people like you.

  10. Si
    July 16, 2016 at 2:12 am

    This is the old drug pushers tactic given the Wall Street treatment.

    Pushers get the users hooked and then jack up the prices.

    With political backing with the old payola it will be a winning combination.

    • night-train
      July 16, 2016 at 4:05 am

      Si: A lot of people have chronic progressive debilitating conditions. Effective treatment is necessary just to have some semblance of a normal life. Drugs are part of that treatment. Eating healthy and other good advice doesn’t change the pain from an injury that occurred 40 years ago. Exercise is good, but only goes so far.

      Personally, I think that if I could legally access marijuana, I could probably drop 3 prescription meds. But living in the Bible Belt, that isn’t going to be an option in my lifetime.

      • nhz
        July 16, 2016 at 5:34 am

        Of course in some cases drugs have clear benefits, but in general I think you are totally wrong. For most chronic diseases the treatment just suppresses symptoms (and sometimes promotes spreading of disease) while really effective treatments (which are often lifestyle changes) are possible but strongly discouraged by the medical complex; most GP’s are brainwashed, MANY of todays ‘chronic diseases’ can be cured or made far less damaging through simple means like diet changes, a bit more exercise, fasting etc. But no one makes money from that …

        Some studies have estimated that many of the most popular prescription drugs are totally ineffective (and sometimes really dangerous) for 90-95% of the people who take them; statins are a well-known example. For most of the recent $100.000 or more per year cancer drugs or drugs for rare genetic diseases, similar story. Patients feel outraged if they don’t get them (without paying anything), but in reality many of these drugs haven’t been even proven to work in independent research. It’s all one big scam with the general public as a willing complicit.

        • night-train
          July 17, 2016 at 3:13 am

          Chronic disease is a broad category. I can only speak from personal experience, and that experience is with chronic musculoskeletal degenerative disease. One can eat well, exercise, do yoga, and physical therapy, all of which I do, but several medications are still required to keep pain at a tolerable level.

      • frederick
        July 17, 2016 at 5:52 am


        July 18, 2016 at 4:31 pm

        Just as any teen you see. They can get you the Ganja.

      • micromacroman
        July 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm

        Lets get straight to the point. America is a nation of drug addicts. The only difference is whether you get them legally or illegally. And who pays for them. You or your insurance company or the gov’t. I know so many people in their 60’s and 70’s who share and buy “legal” drugs back and forth. In my opinion they are no different than the street users.. Other than they have a Dr. and an Insurance plan.

  11. Uncle Frank
    July 16, 2016 at 6:34 am

    If it wasn’t so profitable you wouldn’t see ad after ad on television for expensive prescription medications which the consumer is encouraged to request from their physician. The price increases surely will continue as the revolving doors between industry and regulatory agencies are a given.

    • Dan Romig
      July 16, 2016 at 7:17 am

      Well stated, and true. It is interesting to note which drugs are being frequently advertised on particular types of programs. Pharma and ad agencies have a pretty good clue as to the demographics of the viewing audience that different shows have. They target those sets of viewers, and attempt to convince people that their life will be better if they just take the drug they’re pushing.

      Medicines can be lifesaving, but they can also be unnecessary, addictive and/or harmful. Pharma seems only to care about profit – not its consumers, but maybe I’m just too cynical.

    • Red Rock
      July 18, 2016 at 8:43 am

      You’re still watching TV?
      Worst info in the world.

    • micromacroman
      July 18, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      So often these exact same drugs pushed every hour by tv commercials as the path to happiness. 10yrs later the same drugs are advertised by law firms every hour as a reason for a legal claim. But hurry time may be limited.

  12. J P Frogbottom
    July 16, 2016 at 8:00 am

    THIS is America. We have the best collection of “coin operated” politicians in the world! Big Pharma has figured that out. We pay the most of anyone else in the world! It didn’t have to be that way, but nobody ever thinks outside the 2 party boxes come election day. We keep electing mostly the same duds back in year after year to the house and senate. Why should anything change? You want change, look in your pocket, then into your mirror. WE can change our way of thinking. Can’t trust Washington to do it.

    The best thing that could happen is for the Feds to drastically cut support for this bullshit. No money, no price increases. Sure some will die as a result, so, what’s new in that? War or ‘price war’ your choice people.

  13. Meme Imfurst
    July 16, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Been on a thyroid supplement since age 5. Recently the prescription was refused by my insurance company. Seems the FDA no longer approves thyroid supplements for folks over age 65, so the insurance company is off the hook.

    Soon the FDA, as another worthless agency, will disapprove several hundred more drugs, letting the insurance companies have more profits.
    Lets not forget that the revolving door between government and industry has a greater purpose than simply ‘looking for the best qualified’.

    My solution is dump the company in the fall and get a supplement (to Medicare) which will pay for it…it is not quite a wash but I get the satisfaction of ripping the premium away from the insurance company.

    With congressional portfolios filled with drug companies stock, and 401k funds with the same and YOUR name on the portfolio, just who will make a change? Laughable complaining, no intended action…..

    Trapped like a rat refers to the interests of everyone, no one gives a rats ass either or we would see the portfolios dissolved and anti-trust legislation signed, sealed, and delivered.

    • californiawoman
      July 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

      I cured my subclinical hypothyroidism by applying organic frankincense essential oil to my throat area daily. Worked in 2 weeks. I will probably have to keep using it (maybe not as often) , but it sure beats using drugs. I have lab results to prove it.

    • nhz
      July 17, 2016 at 6:30 am

      “Soon the FDA, as another worthless agency, will disapprove several hundred more drugs, letting the insurance companies have more profits.”

      I think it works just the other way round: insurance companies make the most profit on drugs covered by healthcare insurance, because in that case there really is no limit for the amount of spending. If people have to pay out of pocket for drugs, many of them will try to do some kind of cost/benefit analysis which in most cases would mean cratering sales.

    • Red Rock
      July 18, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Most thyroid problems are caused by water fluoridation, proven fact by many MD’s. Another example of industry dumping a chemical waste by selling it to municipal water systems and ruining our health. Then they sell poor quality thyroid products, instead of natural Armor thyroid, to “fix” it.
      Same old, same old. The only way out is education.

    • micromacroman
      July 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      That is really bad. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t be better back in the 1890’s when all drugs were legal, and anyone could practice medicine. And buyer beware was the only warning label ?

  14. californiawoman
    July 16, 2016 at 9:00 am

    There have been some strange deaths of doctors who practice outside the pharmaceutical model.

    A lot of evil behind the scenes.

    • frederick
      July 17, 2016 at 5:57 am

      No doubt about that California look at 911 perps still not punished

  15. VegasBob
    July 16, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I recently had an extreme reaction to my name brand $235 a month blood pressure medication.

    My throat swelled up so it felt like I had a golf ball in my throat when I tried to swallow food. So I could have choked to death while eating solid food. My vocal cords also froze up and I lost my voice.

    I went to a doctor thanks to my wonderful Obamacare policy. They billed the insurance company over $1,000, leaving me with a co-pay of nearly $375 for what was the equivalent of a 10 minute office visit. The doctor’s verdict was that they really couldn’t figure out what was wrong, that it was probably a virus or allergy, and that it would probably go away on its own at some undetermined future point.

    Then I remembered that about 6 years ago I had a rather bad reaction to a different blood pressure medicine. So I stopped taking my current blood pressure medication. Within 10 days I could swallow food with about 70% less difficulty and my voice came back about 50%.

    I’m betting I’ll be back to normal in another 10 days, though I do need to find a new blood pressure medication.

    The message here is threefold.

    First, Big Pharma is basically peddling poison to people for what can only be considered obscene prices.

    Second, while doctors are good at some things, they frequently miss other things – the extreme side effects that I just experienced from a simple blood pressure medicine are a good example.

    Third, health insurance has evolved into a racket that allows medical professionals and drug companies to charge 3, 4, or 5 times the prices they charged just 5 or 10 years ago.

    • micromacroman
      July 18, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Time to ask, what is worse the blood pressure or the treatments ? And are their any other alternatives? Obviously you are responsible for your own health care decisions, and the drugs and doctors aren’t getting it done?

  16. Coaster Noster
    July 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    There is an overwhelming sentiment in all the comments, and it runs along a common thread. Everyone needs healthcare, and I don’t understand (rhetorically) why Bernie Sanders, as the only candidate prescribing a single payer healthcare system, did not get 101% of the Democratic primary vote, and a simultaneous write-in vote for the Republican nomination. Everyone writing here demonstrates in so many ways, how the system is broken. Thanks to Wolf for again providing statistics to add substance behind what we all feel: ripped and gouged by private enterprise health care. And what did purported nominee Mike Pence declare today? Dismantling the ACA “lock, stock, and barrel” if Trump is elected!!
    Don’t people, doesn’t anyone (???) vote their self-interest. Pence’s declaration should kill every vote any sane person would cast, for Trump.

    • marty
      July 17, 2016 at 4:22 am

      CN, you are not understanding what is going on because it appears you view the world through socialist glasses.

      The problems with the medical system in the US is 100% due to government, not due to private companies. The companies act the way they do because of decades of govt meddling and corruption, beginning with the freezing of wages during WWII that led to employers offering health insurance as a way to increase compensation.

      The answer to the medical dilemma is NOT this bs “single payer” which is a euphemism for govt owned medicine or socialized medicine. (That has been the endgame all along, btw.) You will see budgets even more out of control, even less leeway for mds to practice patient centered medicine, long lines and crap care for all but the very rich–like Canada’s mess.

      The answer is repeal the fda and all govt regulations on medicine. Within a month, corruption would end, prices would crash and quality would begin to sore. But there is so much corruption in the system now and too many like you, brainwashed to hate liberty and free markets, that this will never happen.

      July 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Single Payer is exactly what Rockefeller wanted with Kerosene.

    July 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    I’m in the health sleaze business. I perform corruption. Malpractice, Crime all day long, but I can do so since everything I do is “LEGAL”. After decades in this “business” I know how to play the game, obey ALL LAWS, fill out all forms correctly………..and make about $350,000 a year.

    Folks, you asked for it. Yes, you did. You wan’t “affordable” health care AND you want to pass the bill to your neighbor. Yes, you do.

    Please, after 3+ decades in this corruption, I know, perfectly the game. The politician YOU voted for does not give a damn about you. Neither do you. Neither does the Insurance Company. The political whore you voted for and the Insurance Brokerage Company (I’ll explain that latter) do not give a rat’s ass about you. They aren’t supposed to. That is not their business. Your health is NOT their job. You health is YOUR job but you are too stupid, trusting, and lazy to think about it. Basically, “you can’t handle the truth”.

    The Politician wants your vote and wants power so he can go to Washington and be a Big Man On Campus…..or (let us not be sexists here)….She want to be the Big Slut On Campus. Politicians do not do what they do for YOU. Only you are the complete fool who thinks so.

    Insurance Companies? They are Brokerage companies. They charge you AS MUCH as they can and then find the lower class docs, like me, to take lower payments to see stupid patients…….YOU. They keep the spread. They keep the skim.

    You see, Insurance Companies are NOT in the health care business. Only the Doctor standing in front of you, and the nurses, are in the health care business.


    Politicians want POWER and they get this by you being stupid enough to vote for them. Insurance companies make money by buying and selling providers and subscribers. You, are a subscriber. Not a patient. I am a “provider”, not a doctor. It has nothing to do with health care.

    So, when I read posts about health care, Big Pharm, Obamacare, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I will tell you one inside secret. My personal Doctor? He is part of a Private, concierge practice. NO insurance. No Medicare. No Blue Cross Blue Slime. I pay my own cash and HE and his nurse staff take care of ME. I pay him MONEY and he and his practice take care of ME. No guy in Pakistan approving my treatment. No “committee” approving or denying my MRI. Why do I do this? I know the existence of “death panels” with all the Insurance companies. You are worth MORE to them dead.

    That is the only way.

    • Californiawoman
      July 16, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      You seem to feel justified at making $350,000 a year off the stupid public. No empathy, no conscience?

      • Nicko
        July 16, 2016 at 6:24 pm

        Sounds like he sold his conscience a long time ago.

          July 18, 2016 at 4:40 pm

          The public sold out their conscience, and health care, a long time ago. Don’t blame the pig for the filth.

        July 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

        You missed the point

    • nhz
      July 17, 2016 at 6:35 am

      cynical but so true …

      I see the same everywhere in the industry in my country. It’s not just US and Obamacare, the whole Western world is being held hostage by Big Pharma. And most of the ‘socialist’ request from the general public are making things even worse.

    • Red Rock
      July 18, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Thanks for your honesty.
      I agree with you. We don’t get it both ways: good health & ignorance aren’t a pair.
      PS that’s what I do, pay the doc cash for visits.

  18. Petunia
    July 16, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Recently my adult son needed 2 vaccines. The first clinic we went to was in the poor side of town, they had appointments so we went. The cost for the 2 vaccines and visit would have been $275, they wanted payment, wouldn’t accept insurance for any portion. This clinic operates two clinics in the same building, on one side they take insurance, on the other side they don’t. The vaccines are only given on the cash side. I still don’t understand why. We didn’t have the cash and left. We were not the only ones to leave in the short time we were there. Later, we found a clinic on the nice side of town which took the insurance and charged us a $89 copay.

    It really bothered me that a clinic, in a poor neighborhood, were gouging the people who can least afford medical care, the working poor. Especially, because it had to do with vaccines and those are required for school attendance and you can’t chose not to do it. It was greedy and immoral. We need a single payer system because they will never stop until we stop them.

    • Red Rock
      July 18, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Why are you surprised?
      The medical system is like a Payday Loan shark. Vaccines are cheap.

  19. JimTan
    July 16, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Another contributor to high drug costs in particular (and high healthcare expenses in general) is that the US Government does not have a Single Payer option to negotiate for lower prices from health care providers. How much negotiating would a single payer option provide?

    Total annual US healthcare spending is @ $2.9 trillion (2013):

    Total annual Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services budget is $777 billion (2013):

    The U.S. Government provides 27% of All U.S. Healthcare Spending per Year ( $1 of every $3.73 ). This doesn’t include health services provided to Servicemen by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  20. Rogue RN
    July 16, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I am 63 y.o. male 5’8″, 149 lb, Do Not take any pharm drugs. go to my GP once a year, he gets upset that I state I do not have any med hx. I do not take any vaccines, haven’t been sick with flu, or other wise for years. As med provider I see what drugs /vaccines do to the pts. I know more people like me. I do not deny myself, but live hygienic life. I understand use of drugs in emergent situations, or genetic malfunctions: egz. diabetes. One has to be an responsible adult educate oneself and don’t dig your grave with knife and fork, than most of us would save a lot of money investing in self health and not expecting drug to fix our problems. DRUGS do not “cure” except maybe some antibiotics / which have Harsh side effects/. People need to realize that we are not DRUGS deficient, just as AMA and Pharma. tells us They also tell us we are not vitamins or supplements deficient and we can get all our general nutrients from food most of which is dead, gutted, or GMO. I think it is a good investment to educate oneself ,eat quality, organic food, ,use supplements, it will cost you much less than expensive drugs. Trust me I KNOW I am not Pharm. drugs deficient. I know we are all in different situations an some of us need certain drugs , But if I did not use my judgment and listen to my GP blindly I would be probable on at least 5-6 meds, still as of now I am doing great and still not drug deficient. It is great saving and investment not to pay Pharma. exorbitant money.

    • nhz
      July 17, 2016 at 6:52 am

      Agree; mankind has done pretty well for over 99.9% of its existence without Big Pharma and without food supplements etc. Most of the improvements in health over the last 1-2 centuries are not the result of drugs, but of changes in social/work conditions, hygiene, better nutrition etc.

      In fact if you look at the statistics you could easily suggest that health is often inversely proportional to prescription drug use, not just because chronically ill people use more drugs but also because extensive (and often useless) use of prescription drugs makes people less healthy, especially in the long run. Big Pharma is very good at seeding its future customer base.

      Also the strong decline in child death through vaccines has strongly improved health statistics, but the evidence is mounting that this has negative effects at older age (strong increase in many chronic ‘auto-immune’ type diseases). And keeping genetically diseased people alive with the most recent technologies, and messing with our genetics through all kinds of new reproductive technology, will do wonders for the human genepool ;-( Modern healthcare definitely isn’t a ‘free lunch’ except for those in the industry.

    • micromacroman
      July 18, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      I agree. And will add their nothing wrong with “canned vegetables” and a hand full of nuts for lunch. Even if they are GMO. It is better than the buffet, the taco joint, pizza or burger joint. Me and my sister are a year apart. She is at every dr all the time, with ever prescription, and every procedure. When in my opinion their is nothing wrong with her ! She just comes up with some general-minor complaint. The more the treatments & drugs, the worse the complaints. I’m convinced it just overtreatment & side effects;. Since she getting all these drugs and treatments. She feels no need to practice good diet or exercise. It is like a cascading effect for anyone past 40 or 50 who starts with some minor complaint & starts taking drugs. Then more drugs for the increasing side effects, and decreasing overall health. EVER watch any drug commercial and the list the side effects REAL fast at the end ????

  21. Duane Snyder
    July 17, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Don’t disagree with much of the article, healthcare spending is surely a drain on spending. But that alone simply can’t be “what’s cannibalizing the US economy”. Broadly speaking, IMO, “free trade” policies are “what’s cannibalizing the US economy”. The $600B plus trade deficit hasn’t caused the US dollar to crater in value yet. But as the country is hollowed out by foreign interests (by the purchase of US assets) there is no secure economic future for the average American, just a loss of US sovereignty. It’s not complicated.

  22. James Chaillet, MD
    July 18, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    The price increases occur and will reoccur because they can. The drug manufacturers sell to Medicare which cannot legally negotiate prices but which would have huge clout if it could. The companies sell to Medicaid plans, which can and do negotiate prices but mainly go out of their way to limit patients’ access to the expensive ones. They also limit access to specialists who tend to prescribe the more expensive ones – think a rheumatologist prescribing Enbrel. And last- the manufacturers sell to the commercial insurers who make an attempt to manage utilization and obtain faux discounts; but, who also in the end just pass the costs on to the businesses which, under Obamacare, largely have to absorb the costs. What a deal!

  23. Noo 2 Economics
    July 29, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Obamacare has set and increasing expenditure limits which are phased in over a number of years, these limits cannot and have not been exceeded so far so wherever the pharma industry is making it’s money iot’s not there.

    What of insurance companies? The article says the insurance companies do what they can to keep prices down but ultimately have to pay the price, covering the cost via higher premiums.

    The article misses the fact that “Joe” faced with increasing premiums may opt for a greater deductible or reduce coverage to cope with the increases, this, in turn, would lead to the Insurance companies paying less to pharma but in the case of “Joe” opting for a higher deductible would of course be covered by him.

    In the former, GDP falls as Pharma receive less money, in the latter GDP rises slightly as Joe transfers his consumption from other areas when he is sick.

    The main area where this behaviour will benefit Pharma is in net prices where over the counter drug purchases are made. I note the article carefully avoids an investigation into that area to establish consumer behaviour when faced with price increases yet this is the area where the real dough (if any) will be made……

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