President Trump doubled down on his campaign promise to lower prescription drug prices for American citizens, but Americans are skeptical to buy into his promises, especially considering how entrenched our lawmakers are with Big Pharma lobbyists. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss this.
Mike Papantonio: President Trump doubled down on his campaign promise to lower prescription drug prices for American citizens. But Americans are skeptical to buy his promise, especially considering how entrenched, absolutely entrenched, our lawmakers are with big pharma money. Big pharma passes around so much money, Farron, that … I mean, it’s startling, the amount of money. So what ends up happening is finally somebody in The White House says “Oh my god. Look at the markup that pharma is doing here. A pill that costs 50 cents in Europe costs $50 in America.” We’ve known that for ages. You and I have done stories on this over the … What are some of the markups? I mean, these markups are amazing. I look at Celebrex, 100-milligram Celebrex is a 21,000% markup. Right? Take it from there. I mean-
Farron Cousins: You got Lipitor, highly popular medication in the United States, markup, 4,696%. Paxil, markup, 2,898. Prilosec, which so many Americans are on every single day, the markup on that one, 69,417%-
Mike Papantonio: Which might kill you in the end because it’s a PPI, and now we’re finding out PPI is causing a whole host of physical injuries. Okay, so Trump comes out, of all people, and says “You know, we’re going to do something about this.” At this point, what you have is you have five states … Under his plan, you’ll have five states that are allowed to go to Medicaid and say to Medicaid, “You’re charging too much money,” and that makes the market hopefully respond. We should see some activity there, shouldn’t we? If that really happens, if it really happens.
Farron Cousins: Well, yeah, we should. To be honest, I have very … I don’t even know that I’ve ever said a kind word about Donald Trump-
Mike Papantonio: I’ve never heard you say a kind word.
Farron Cousins: … but I will say if anybody can do this, it might be a guy like him. I don’t want people to think I’m suddenly on the Trump train here but if you think about it, Donald Trump isn’t the kind of guy who has spent enough time there to be completely corrupted, as both Republicans and Democrats are, by big pharma money. So it might be possible.
Mike Papantonio: And he may be so naïve that he doesn’t understand that he can’t do anything about big pharma making a 70 … Prilosec, 69,000% markup on Prilosec. $69,000 … I mean 69,000%. It may be he’s looking at this, he saying “I can get something done,” maybe he’s so naïve that where he doesn’t understand that big pharma owns and operates Washington DC.
Farron Cousins: Well, see, and that’s part of the issue here too though is that … Trump has said this several times. This is not the first we’ve heard of this. He does understand also that his approval ratings are bad. 42%, it just hit this all-time high of 42%-
Mike Papantonio: It’s like that’s a big deal, he’s 40 [crosstalk 00:03:03]-
Farron Cousins: Right, and we know that he is obsessed with these poll numbers. He wants people to love him.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Farron Cousins: This could be a way. I know it’s to serve-
Mike Papantonio: Oh, this-
Farron Cousins: … his own ego, but if it still helps the American public by not-
Mike Papantonio: But-
Farron Cousins: … making us pay a 70% markup-
Mike Papantonio: The only thing that solves this problem … You remember the pharma bro? Okay. Pharma bro gets sentenced to prison for … I forgot what. Was it seven-
Farron Cousins: Seven. Seven years.
Mike Papantonio: Seven years-
Farron Cousins: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: … okay. People think he was sentenced to prison for marking up that AIDS Drug like a gazillion percent. No, he was sentenced to prison because he tried to steal money from rich people in a Ponzi scheme. So really, it comes right down to it, it’s going to take a lot to really move this ball. Endo … Look, this is a great example. $270 million to resolve an antitrust case … This is amazing. People don’t realize that, but you have companies like Endo that … You have these drug companies that … what they do is they pay generic drug makers to delay the release of cheaper medication. This has been going on for decades now, but the fines aren’t working. If we want this practice to end, we’re going have to have stricter punishment. Give us an example of how this goes.
Farron Cousins: Well, right now, especially with this case, you have Endo who makes these LIDODERM pain patches. What they did is they reached out to the generic company because their patent was expiring after 10 years as it does so the generics can flood the market and lower the prices. They offered the generic company … They say “Hey, look. We’re going to pay you $100 million, $200 million, whatever it is, to just not do that yet. Give us two more years, give us three more years of milking consumers. We’ll pay you more than you would make from making this generic. We’ll make more money, you make more money, everybody wins except the consumers.” That’s what happened here with Endo. Teva pharmaceuticals is also on there. Teikoku-
Mike Papantonio: Okay-
Farron Cousins: … is in there.
Mike Papantonio: Okay, but the way it works is you have to have a generic company that says “You know, I can make more money by keeping my product off the market than I can on the market.” A company like Endo says “Okay. Let’s do the calculations. If we keep the generic out of the market and we keep the prices down, we’re going to have a window of a couple of years where we can make hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. So is it worth it to us … ” I think the exchange at one point was about $60 million. One of the generic companies says “Yeah, I’ll take $60 million.” Well, in doing that, the Japanese drugmaker who actually was involved in this process … they make a lot of money, right? Isn’t that what this about? You keep the consumer having to pay more money by keeping generics out of the market.
Farron Cousins: It is absolutely. It’s the scam … it has a name. It’s called pay-to-delay and it’s been around for decades. This is how they operate. This is why when we talk about stories about Trump saying he wants to lower prescription drug prices, it’s not just a political thing because until we get these people who are engaging in these scams … until you get them in prison, they’re not going to stop. They’ll break-
Mike Papantonio: [crosstalk 00:06:19]-
Farron Cousins: … the law all they want.
Mike Papantonio: The statute provides for prison time, understand … Antitrust, these statutes provide very specifically, for somebody doing this, the right to go to prison. But the fines that come out, the settlements that come out, nothing ever really happens like that. If you can pick up another couple of … $500 million by doing this, by having some generic stay, “Hey buddy, you stay out of the market. You shut up. We’re going to pay you just to be quiet.” If you can do that long enough, you make a ton of money.