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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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

53 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.