Sen. Tom Carper (D-Big Pharma) is why you pay 4x too much for prescription drugs

Big Pharma Whore
We’ve already established
what you are, Sen. Carper.
Now we’re simply haggling
over the price.

US Senator Thomas Carper from Delaware isn’t the only reason you pay an exorbitant price, as compared to Europeans and Canadians, for prescription drugs.  But he’s definitely one of the main reasons (it also didn’t help that the administration traded this amendment away to Big Pharma.)

You see, Senator Carper is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries who have paid him nearly half a million dollars over the years for his service to their cause.

It’s currently illegal for US pharmacies and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from abroad, where the exact same drugs, made by the exact same drug companies, are often sold at a quarter of the price of their US counterparts.

And even private American citizens, when traveling abroad, are only permitted to bring a few month’s worth of prescription drugs back home with them, lest American pharmaceutical companies, that pay big money to buy off the US Congress and presidential candidates, lose out on the opportunity to gouge the American people for billions in excess profits each year.

Back in 2009, during the health care reform debate, all that might have changed.

You see, former US Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota offered an amendment that would have permitted “pharmacies and wholesalers to import U.S.-approved medication from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, where drug costs are far lower because of price controls.” And who led the opposition to that amendment, but the Democratic Senator from Delaware, Thomas Carper, who has the big pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca headquartered in his state.

More from the Washington Post:

An anticipated vote on Dorgan’s amendment was initially blocked on Thursday by Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, home to the U.S. headquarters of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Carper backs a different version of the legislation that supporters decry as a poison pill.

Carper said in a statement that he shares the FDA’s concerns that “Senator Dorgan’s amendment could potentially allow unsafe, counterfeited drugs into the United States, contaminating our drug supply. This is a complicated issue that affects people’s lives. We should make sure that the FDA says it’s safe before we reimport drugs from other countries.”

Right, Senator Carper and the FDA are worried about unsafe counterfeit drugs coming into the US, that’s why they won’t let American citizens buy the same drugs, made and sold by the same pharmaceutical companies, for a quarter of the price in Europe.

Contrary to Senator Carper’s assertion, it’s actually not that complicated.  You see, Senator Carper has received $166,300 from pharmaceutical lobbyists, and a whopping $320,210 from insurance lobbyists. That’s nearly half a million dollars in bribes appreciation from lobbyists who have zero interest in making your health care affordable and every interest in gouging you for every penny you’ve got.

Carper has received $27,200 alone from AstraZeneca.  You know AstraZeneca, they’re the pharmaceutical company that charges Americans nearly four times what it charges Europeans for one of the world’s most popular asthma drugs, Symbicort.

As I reported yesterday, it’s even worse.  Not only does AstraZeneca discriminate against Americans simply because of our “crime” of being born US citizens, but AstraZeneca has found a new way to gouge American consumers.  Over the past three years, AstraZeneca has raised the price of Symbicort in the US by 20%.  In Europe, over the same three-year period, AstraZeneca raised the price of the already relatively-cheap drug by a whopping 0%:

The price of Symbicort in France three years ago was 54 Euros ($66) – that’s the same price Symbicort goes for today in Paris – AstraZeneca hasn’t increased the price one cent in three years. But a funny thing happens when you look at the price of Symbicort in the US over that same time period. Three years ago it was $194. Today it goes for $233. That’s a 20% increase in the price of the drug since 2009.

So, AstraZeneca is not only charging Americans 3.5x what it charges Europeans for the same drug, but over the past three years AstraZeneca has kept the relatively-low price of the drug in Europe stable – a zero percent increase in the price charged Europeans – while AstraZeneca increased the already-exorbitant US price by 20% while US inflation never topped 3% in any of those three years.

You can thank Senator Carper for that too.

Here’s what the federal government and consumers would have saved had Dorgan’s amendment passed.  More from the Washington Post:

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the proposal would save the government $19 billion over the next 10 years, and Dorgan estimated that consumers would save $80 billion more. He pointed to vast price differences in drugs made in the same factories; an equivalent amount of the heartburn medication Nexium, for example, costs $36 in Spain and $424 in the United States, he said.

But it’s not just about saving money.  Senator Carper didn’t just ensure that Americans will continue to be ripped off by drug companies, he helped ensure that nearly a quarter of American seniors, and nearly one-third of America’s uninsured, won’t get the life-saving drugs they need.  From NIH:

Due to the increasing burden of medication costs, Americans, especially elderly and the uninsured, avoid taking medications or skip doses. According to a study, 22% of seniors do not fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford the cost of their medications (Safran et al 2002). The percentages are higher (32%) for uninsured population, which account for approximately 10% to 15% of the US populat
ion (Safran et al 2002).

So the next time grandma can’t afford her meds, be sure to call up Senator Carper and ask him if his cool half a million was worth it?

To wrap up, let me take you back to what Senator Carper had to say in 2009 about why it should remain illegal for people like me to buy a year’s supply of AstraZeneca’s Symbicort in France for nearly 1/4th the price I pay for the same Symbicort in the US:

“Senator Dorgan’s amendment could potentially allow unsafe, counterfeited drugs into the United States, contaminating our drug supply.”

Senator Carper is afraid that the Symbicort AstraZeneca is selling me in France is unsafe and counterfeit?  If that’s true, then I wouldn’t trust any of AstraZeneca’s drugs anywhere, even in the US.

I’m sure Senator Carper would be happy to clear up any confusion… for another half a million bucks.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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