Advair sales plummet 30% as US insurance companies refuse to pay obscene prices

Hallelujah. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d praise an insurance company. But the proverbial Atlas just shrugged.

Insurance company pharmacy benefit managers, who have apparently had it with drug companies charging American consumers ridiculously high, and ever-increasing, prices for prescription drugs, are starting to say “enough.”

At the top of the list is my asthma drug, Advair.

Some big insurance company pharmacy benefits managers are simply no longer permitting their plans to cover Advair. Or at best, they’ve relegated Advair to the lower “third tier,” which means the patient has to pay so much of the price that they simply won’t buy the drug at all.

As a result, Advair sales plummeted 30% this year in the US.

GlaxoSmithKline charges Americans 5x what it charges Europeans for Advair

Advair’s parent company, GlaxoSmithKline, charges Americans five times the price it charges many Europeans for the same drug.

Yes, five times.

advairFor example, in France I bought a one month’s supply of Advair 100/50 last summer for around 38 euros, or around $52 dollars.  The same drug in the states will set you back $254, and that’s at Costco. You’ll pay more elsewhere.

Oh, and it gets even better. In the past few years, Advair’s parent company, GlaxoSmithKline, raised the price 30% in the US over the past few years, while they lowered the price 10% in France over the same time period.  So over the past 5 years, Advair went from being 3x as expensive in the US as it is in  Europe, to 5x as expensive.

And before you think that France is somehow subsidizing the purchase, they’re not. France simply negotiated with GlaxoSmithKline, and the company agreed to charge the French FIVE TIMES LESS THAN IT CHARGES AMERICANS.

Think about that for a moment. You’re paying five times the price for an obscenely expensive prescription drug because of your citizenship.

Oh but it’s worse than that, the NYT confirms that the reason Americans are paying so much is because the drug companies want us to make up the difference for the deal they give Europeans.

Many other countries control drug prices in some manner, so drug companies have become dependent on increasing prices in the United States to grow.

I was pretty ticked that under the new Obamacare plans, I’d still pay far too much for my Advair. But I’ve kind of had it with companies like GlaxoSmithKline, who are basically fleecing American consumers because of our citizenship, and so that they can subsidize Europeans. I love Europe, I may even retire in Europe, but it’s hard enough for me to pay my bills each month, let alone help some guy in Paris pay his as well.

Democrats and Republicans are both to blame

Our entire health care system is a mess. It’s bought by and owned by huge companies, like the drug companies.  And even under Obamacare, Congress refused to lift the laws that help drug companies maintain their obscene prices.  For example, did you know that it’s illegal for the Medicare program to negotiate prescription drug prices with Big Pharma?

Yes, they made it illegal for the United States government to practice capitalism and simply negotiate with drug companies to try to get a better deal.  And sadly, Obamacare did nothing to change it.  And it’s not just the Democrats’ fault — both parties are owned by Big Pharma and big healthcare.

Of course, it doesn’t help when the FDA posts Big Pharma false propaganda on the FDA.gov Web site.  Which brings us to another thing illegal under US law — bringing back more than a few month’s worth of drugs with you from Europe. Why?  Because the FDA says that no one knows if the drugs are even safe!

Yes, GlaxoSmithKline sells Advair for 1/5 the price in Paris, and if you try to bring that Advair home with you, and Customs finds it, it will be confiscated “for your own protection.” Because, apparently GlaxoSmithKline is such a dangerous company that we can’t trust the drugs they manufacture in Europe, but they’re such a great company that we can trust the drugs they manufacture in America, and pay five times the price for them!

The word “obscene” doesn’t begin to describe what GlaxoSmithKline, and far too many other pharmaceutical companies, are doing to American consumers.

So, while I’ve found that Advair is the drug that works best on my asthma, I’m willing to see the drug virtually banned in America. I hope GlaxoSmithKline goes down in flames.

Now a word about Symbicort and AstraZeneca

symbicort (1)One more thing. As you read the NYT article, don’t be fooled by the part that talks about how good GlaxoSmithKline’s competitor, AstraZeneca, is with its Advair competition drug Symbicort. And how insurance companies, and consumers, are flocking to Symbicort because it’s a more reasonably priced drug.

It’s not.

I’ve written about Symbicort before. They’re almost as bad as Glaxo.

For example, two years ago I went to a French pharmacy to buy some Symbicort, and it cost me 54 euros, or 66 dollars at the time.

Guess how much AstraZeneca was charging for Symbicort in America?

$233, or 3.5x the price of what AstraZeneca charges the French.

So, if American insurance companies are boycotting Advair, someone needs to ask them why they’re not boycotting Symbicort as well.

Our system is a colossal mess.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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