The scandal over drug prices in the US

It is well known that because of the power that the pharmaceutical industries wields over the political establishment in the US, Americans pay far more for drugs than people in other countries. Bernie Sanders exposed one such case where a drug that had been free suddenly started costing a whole lot more.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Catalyst Pharmaceuticals on Monday asking it to justify its decision to charge $375,000 annually for a medication that for years has been available to patients for free.

The drug, Firdapse, is used to treat Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS), a rare neuromuscular disorder, according to the letter, made available to Reuters by the senator’s office. The disorder affects about one in 100,000 people in the United States.

For years, patients have been able to get the same drug for free from Jacobus Pharmaceuticals, a small New Jersey-based drug company, which offered it through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) program called “compassionate use.”

Florida-based Catalyst received FDA approval of Firdapse in November, along with exclusive rights to market the medication for several years. The company, which bought rights to the drug from a company called BioMarin in 2012, develops and commercializes drugs for rare diseases.
BioMarin and FDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In December, Catalyst announced it would price Firdapse at $375,000 a year.

In her first appearance on an oversight committee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez highlighted how the government, through the National Institutes of Health, initially funds the basic research into the drugs but then hands that research over to the private sector to develop and market the drugs with the taxpayers not benefiting at all from the subeequent profits.

We have a system where the costs are socialized but the profits are privatized. That must change.

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