Nov 17, 2018

Why drug prices matter: Lives and livelihoods are at stake

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Drug prices are a big deal politically because they’re a big deal personally. Time after time, the issue is thrust back into the spotlight by virtue of giant price increases on drugs that aren’t new or innovative, but are still life-savers for millions of people.

It happened when “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli bought Daraprim, a drug to treat AIDS, and raised the price by 5,000%. It happened when Mylan raised the price of the Epi-Pen by about 500% over 6 years. It has been happening for years with insulin, where prices keep creeping higher, adding up to increases of more than 200% for some products.

The tradeoff between costs and benefits still matters for new drugs, too. New leading-edge treatments, like immunotherapy for cancer, offer lifesaving promise that almost any family would want but few can afford.

  • The debate is more complicated with new drugs, though, because we know their development costs are still on the books.
  • That’s why big price hikes on old drugs, that people have depended on for decades, spark particularly fierce outrage.

"It's really one of my greatest fears," Clayton McCook, who has to meet a $3,000 annual deductible to cover medication and supplies for his diabetic 10-year-old daughter, recently told Axios. "If insulin is $300 a vial now, what's it going to look like in 20 years when she's on her own?"

A version of that scenario is already a reality for Nicole Smith-Holt. She lost her son Alec, 26, to diabetic ketoacidosis shortly after he began rationing insulin. Alec died less than a month after he was no longer eligible for his mother’s insurance plan. He was facing costs of $1,300 per month.

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America's future looks a lot like Nevada

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today's Nevada caucus will foreshadow the future of American politics well beyond 2020.

Why it matters: The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transformation, and the country's future looks a lot like Nevada's present. Today's results, in addition to shaping the 2020 race, will help tell us where politics is headed in a rapidly changing country.

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 14 hours ago - Health