The New York Times recently found out that different patients treated in a recent food-poisoning event paid prices that ranged over hundreds of dollars for basic IV saline solution. More surprising is that the Medicare-approved rate for a liter of saline that can end up at $90 starts at $1.07 a liter.
The U.K. government is the latest to start looking to tamp down prices on already-approved drugs as it tries to take control of what it sees as runaway healthcare costs.
Greece and the drug industry aren't getting along so well. After several years of stiffing drugmakers on their bills, the Greek government now accuses more than 50 pharma companies of cutting off supplies of key drugs, the Guardian reports.
The well-armed German pricing gatekeepers have dismissed two more Big Pharma drugs. Pfizer's ($PFE) lung cancer treatment Xalkori and the Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY)/AstraZeneca ($AZN) diabetes drug Komboglyze both got an initial thumbs-down from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).
It is little compensation for being shut out of the U.S. market with its best new product, but Novo Nordisk said it will price Tresiba at a premium in Europe, where the product is facing off against market leader Lantus.
Pharma's path to a big payoff in China is growing narrower and narrower. The government has just announced its fourth drug-price cut since 2011, with 400 meds subject to forced discounts. And on that list are several of Big Pharma's key products.
Paper-thin margins on some generic sterile injectable drugs are often cited as one of the big reasons that so many have ended up in short supply, because few companies, if any, want to make them. When a plant is closed for upgrades or a supplier decides to drop a drug because the reward is too low, then presto--the drug is in short supply and patients who rely on it are in a world of hurt.
Here's some good news for Big Pharma's image: The latest Access to Medicine Index shows that major drugmakers are doing a better job of getting their products into the hands of patients in poor countries. Since the last report two years ago, some companies have clearly stepped up their game.
GlaxoSmithKline prevailed in a tax challenge from the Canadian government. The U.K.-based drugmaker won backing from the country's highest court, in a much-watched battle over using transfer pricing to cut its tax bill.
New diabetes and obesity drugs may falter because they have cheaper alternatives, and even rare-disease drugs may see some pushback on price.