Generic drug hike not a figment of your imagination

Monday, May 13, 2019

Remember when “plain label” products first became popular?

Yes, the quality may have been a little less, but hey, the price was right.

Consumers also got a break when generic drugs came on the scene, companies offering lower-priced options to name-brand, highly-promoted pills once the patents expired on those formulas.

Owners of the original drugs responded by pointing out that tolerances might be lower on generic knock-offs, and also began offering and promoting new, patentable versions of their old drugs, a timed-release version, for example.

You may have noticed that the price of your generic drugs have jumped in recent years; if not, your insurance company certainly has.

So have Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and 43 other state attorneys general, who have filed lawsuits accusing 20 drug manufacturers and 15 individuals of fixing prices and allocating markets for more than 100 different generic drugs.

Emails include words like “fair share,” “playing nice in the sandbox” and “responsible competitor” in reference to the alleged price fixing. Other agreements were reached directly at “girls’ nights out,” lunches, cocktail parties, golf outings and frequent communication via telephone calls, emails and texts.

The alleged price fixing resulted in billions of dollars in extra costs to health insurance companies and their customers, and taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.

You’ve probably been affected by the alleged conspiracy if you or a family member takes any type of generic drug, some of which have gone up more than 1,000 percent thanks to the coordinated price increases.

The latest complaint, which seeks damages, civil penalties and actions to restore competition to the generic drug market. The first, still pending, was filed in 2016 and includes 18 corporations, two individuals and 15 generic drugs.

In that case, prosecutors are getting help from two former pharmaceutical executives who are cooperating with prosecutors as part of a settlement.

Let’s hope the latest filings bring some relief to those of us who depend on medication for an improved quality of life, or for life itself.

Let’s also hope, once these two lawsuits are settled, name-brand pharmaceutical companies are subjected to the same scrutiny by officials who are undeterred by the political influence those companies wield over our elected representatives in Lincoln and Washington.

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