US Government Working With Pharma Companies To Raise Drug Prices In Other Countries

from the health-comes-second... dept

A series of stories from Jamie Love at KEI highlight the troubling cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the US government in trying to raise drug prices in other countries — which very likely will come at the expense of the health of citizens in those countries. The first is about the USTR and its position that drugs in Taiwan are too cheap:

The United States has also continued to engage Taiwan on concerns raised by the pharmaceutical and medical device industries that Taiwan’s procedures for medical product pricing and reimbursement fail to adequately recognize the value of innovative medical products for patients in Taiwan.

Read that again, because that’s a pretty scary statement. Yes, Taiwan has worked hard to make sure that health care is affordable in that country, and the USTR is acting on behalf of corporate interests to tell them that’s a mistake. Wow.

Then, over in India, it appears that the USPTO is putting on co-branded events with Pfizer about drugs, health care and patents. Along with this, Love points to growing concerns from folks in India about a project between George Washington University and various pharmaceutical companies to “train” Indian politicians and judges on the importance of patents in pharma. Except, of course, that’s very much in dispute. Many studies have shown that patents on pharma do more harm than good — especially in countries with big healthcare issues.

There are plenty of important issues to debate over health care and patents, but it seems quite troubling when the US seems to have pretty much let the pharmaceutical companies run the entire debate.

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Comments on “US Government Working With Pharma Companies To Raise Drug Prices In Other Countries”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Sigh...

Sometimes they just line up so well:

“A series of stories from Jamie Love at KEI highlight the troubling cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the US government in trying to raise drug prices in other countries”

This is only surprising if you haven’t been paying attention to the membership of the CFR. Of note in this case:

1. Co-Chair Carla Hills, former US Trade Rep
2. Co-Chair Robert Rubin, former Sec. of the Treasury
3. President Richard Haass, former Dir. of Policy Planning
for the State Dept.
4. Membership in their “Directors” list include: Madeline
Albright, Tom Brokaw, Richard Holbrooke (Top American
Diplomat for Obama), Colin Powell, David Rockefeller
and Fareed Zakaria

—And that’s just in their leadership/directors. You begin to see how this is a group made up of influential politicians and media members. Now for the pertinent corporate membership—

5. GlaxoSmithKline
6. Pfizer
7. Merck & Co., Inc.
8. Virtually every law firm that would represent them, media
group that would report on them, bank that would loan
money to them (and sit on their boards), and investment
firm that would provide capital to them (and sit on their
boards)

And remember, this group, whether you believe they are engaged in some of the globalist things I do or not, is called the Council on FOREIGN RELATIONS, chaired by media, govt., ex-govt., and industry.

I would say that the concept of industry envading our foreign policy is a foregone conclusion….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sigh...

“meanwhile, how to get them out/who to replace them with?”

Beyond outright revolution? No idea. If you actually take a look at how many people in this small group of about 200-400 members (depending on the year) have served in official positions within the govt., usually fairly high ranking, the probability statistics become absolutely absurd.

I have no idea if the author is aware of it, but there is an excellent overview of the CFR posted at this link, which is an excerpt from his book, Rule By Secrecy:

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_rulebysecrecy1.htm#002

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh...

Or just ignore them? As I understand, they are merely a think tank with no explicit ability to form policy? Interested actors will form mechanisms to influence policymakers; this is what they do, and it’s certainly not limited to pharma/foreign relations/whatever. I don’t see a problem with the CFR, anymore than I do with the KKK or NAMBLA or whoever.

The issue is with the policymakers that actually do it, and since they are allowed to intervene they will obviously do so in the manner that will garner them the greatest rewards and influence. The CFR is a convenient excuse to do so, but blaming US policy on CFR is scapegoating.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh...

“The issue is with the policymakers that actually do it, and since they are allowed to intervene they will obviously do so in the manner that will garner them the greatest rewards and influence. The CFR is a convenient excuse to do so, but blaming US policy on CFR is scapegoating.”

That makes sense, until you realize how many public officials, some elected but most appointed, that were or are CFR members there are. The probability of someone being a member of that group and then BECOMING a public official is absolutely ridiculous. For example:

“Once the ruling members of the CFR have decided that the U.S. Government should adopt a particular policy, the very substantial research facilities of CFR are put to work to develop arguments, intellectual and emotional, to support the new policy, and to confound and discredit, intellectually and politically, any opposition,” – Admiral Chester Ward, former Judge Advocate of the US Navy and longtime CFR member

“Ideas put forward tentatively in this journal (Foreign Affairs, produced by the CFR) often, if well received by the Foreign Affairs community, appear later as U.S. government policy or legislation; prospective policies that fail this test usually disappear.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

“The historical record speaks even more loudly. . . . Through 1988, 14 secretaries of state, 14 treasury secretaries, 11 defense secretaries and scores of other federal department heads have been CFR members.” – Journalist James Perloff

“Nearly every CIA director since Allen Dulles has been a CFR member, including Richard Helms, William Colby, George Bush, William Webster, James Woolsey, John Deutsch, and William Casey.” – Author Jim Marrs

“There really was not a dime’s worth of difference [between presidential candidates]. Voters were given the choice between CFR world government advocate Nixon and CFR world government advocate Humphrey. Only the rhetoric was changed to fool the public.” – Author Gary Allen

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sigh...

I understand how messed up the situation appears to be, but what I’m saying is that the CFR is merely a manifestation of the problem, not the problem.

Say you replaced the CFR’s members with a bunch of consumer proponents. Is this gonna make much difference? Are policymakers suddenly going to change their policy because the CFR is who it is, or are they going to look elsewhere for an excuse that better reflects their own priorities and profit motives, such as the new organization that all the ex-CFR members joined?

As far as I can tell, the CFR has no specific powers to make or alter policy beyond that politicians are in-step with it as an excuse to implement policy that is contrary to the best interests of the country, and they could use any excuse they want until they’re called on it. Unlike, say, the Fed or Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, which are very much quasi-governmental organizations that not only cater to politicians but also retain governmental powers or funding.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Sigh...

“what I’m saying is that the CFR is merely a manifestation of the problem, not the problem.”

Ah, okay, then we agree. You’re right, the CFR as an institution is not the problem, it’s what the members of that institution are doing.

What I disagree with is your assertion that it’s the policy makers and not the CFR members that are the problem. My issue is that all the evidence I’m seeing points to the fact that the policy makers and CFR members are the exact same people.

“the CFR has no specific powers to make or alter policy beyond that politicians are in-step with it as an excuse to implement policy that is contrary to the best interests of the country”

I think you’ve reached the wrong conclusion. The CFR appears to be not the excuse policy makers use for their legislation, but rather the impetus of that legislation to start with. And THAT’S the issue, that a group of industry giants is members of the same group of policy makers and media companies and personalities (that are forbidden from covering the CFR, btw) are essentially constructing foreign policy, which is why I related this to the original article to begin with.

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Sigh...

Perhaps so. I guess it doesn’t really make much difference though; one way or another, policymakers are in lockstep with special interests, and the CFR is one of many tools to influence public opinion – or at least legitimize governmental policies.

But still, where we differ – and we’ve discussed this several times so I feel sometimes like it’s a fundamental agree-to-disagree paradigm dichotomy – is that by eliminating the CFR we would be doing any good. We can eliminate all the special interest groups that influence policy, but nothing will really change. You would still have a system where policymakers are offering policy to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder will be the entity(ies) most directly and financially affected by them – which will always be the special interests because the public individually is not affected to nearly the same degree.

Therefore, tear down all these constructs like the CFR and more will just pop up(maybe in totally different forms, but nevertheless mechanisms to transfer wealth and influence from interests to policymakers) as long as the best way to increase one’s share of the pie(and to protect one’s existing share) is to buy a Congressman. The only way to actually prevent corporatism without completely screwing over the economy and all the phenomenal benefits competition brings the public is to change the incentives such that profits are made by market competition and not by lobbying. And the only way to do that is to remove the government’s intervention, such that there is no point in lobbying for what cannot be given.

Anyway, that’s my long-winded explanation (yet again) for why I’m not surprised and not incensed so much as jaded by yet another example of cronyism. I don’t think treating the symptoms gets us anywhere, and changing laws and regulations to restrict the few only restricts the freedoms of all while leaving corruption to manifest in another way. Sorta like DRM or suing file sharers, actually.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Sigh...

“But still, where we differ – and we’ve discussed this several times so I feel sometimes like it’s a fundamental agree-to-disagree paradigm dichotomy – is that by eliminating the CFR we would be doing any good. We can eliminate all the special interest groups that influence policy, but nothing will really change. You would still have a system where policymakers are offering policy to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder will be the entity(ies) most directly and financially affected by them – which will always be the special interests because the public individually is not affected to nearly the same degree.”

I tend to agree with your philosophy. The solution is that the public must be more proactive and this proactive nature must continue in perpetuation. Policy makers are afraid of a public that votes against them, the public must be informed about the laws to some degree and must actively vote out policy makers that grant monopolies, ESPECIALLY ones on communication.

“And the only way to do that is to remove the government’s intervention, such that there is no point in lobbying for what cannot be given.”

Exactly, and that requires VOTERS to be ACTIVE in ensuring that governments can’t grant patents, cableco/telco monopolies, Taxi Cab monopolies, post office monopolies, etc… I completely agree. We as voters need to have a very strong anti – monopoly attitude.

However, that’s not to say that all monopolies are bad. I do think that some copyrights and patents on certain things for SHORT periods of time (and certainly not the ridiculous laws we have now) can cause some good. However, the laws today are so absurd I see no reason to defend such a position.

Jake (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Sigh...

I’d also like to add something to that. Services where it is impossible for true free-market competition to function -power, water, Tier 1 Internet or any other service where the infrastructure requirements are beyond any startup’s ability to break in- belong under the control of elected officials. If you can’t prevent so-called ‘natural’ monopolies from forming, accountability to the ballot box is the next best way of ensuring quality of service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Sigh...

“And the only way to do that is to remove the government’s intervention, such that there is no point in lobbying for what cannot be given.”

Just like the constitution ensures the freedom of speech to all individuals and makes such freedoms difficult to remove from the constitution, what we need to do is pass difficult to remove laws that prevents governments from granting gableco/telco monopolies, monopolies on cableco/telco infrastructure, that ensures health freedoms, that limits the ability of patents and copyrights to take away our freedoms and that actually limits such constructs to a specified SHORT period of time, laws that prohibit (federal, state, and local) governments from granting taxi cab monopolies, from granting mail delivery monopolies (ie: the post office has a monopoly on who can deliver mail to your mailbox), and basically more difficult to remove laws that ensure individual freedoms that can not be taken away.

Paranoid says:

Re: Sigh...

“Membership in their “Directors” list include: Madeline
Albright, Tom Brokaw, Richard Holbrooke (Top American
Diplomat for Obama), Colin Powell, David Rockefeller
and Fareed Zakaria”

hmmmm … where have I seen that list before??? Sounds like the guest list at a certain Top Secret annual meeting of the rulers of “free” men.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Down with IP laws as they are

Can’t wait for the current IP setup of all facets to go down. Preferably without glory.
The original idea behind trademarks is still good though. Preventing consumer confusion is never a bad idea, but a lot of lawsuits related to trademarks these days are out of hand. Just like Copyright and Patent laws are way out of hand.
The times have changed, and people need to adapt.

We pay for the cheap drugs says:

Re: Re:

We ultimately end up paying for these cheap drugs around the world. The US is in effect subsidizing most of the world’s pharmaceuticals. Research isn’t cheap and if you want to keep seeing new drugs developed then the “big-pharma” companies need a window to re-coup their costs.

DH's love child says:

Re: Re: Re:

“We ultimately end up paying for these cheap drugs around the world. The US is in effect subsidizing most of the world’s pharmaceuticals. Research isn’t cheap and if you want to keep seeing new drugs developed then the “big-pharma” companies need a window to re-coup their costs.”

Nice try, they don’t want to lower our prices on these drugs while raising them elsewhere. There would be NO balancing of pricing. they simply want to raise the prices in other countries to improve their profit margin.

IF there were price leveling, I would have no problem with raising prices (slightly) in those countries as well as lowering them slightly in the US and others. But they wouldn’t do that. All they care about is improving their bottom line, not helping people be healthy.

Don’t think for a minute that this would have ANY effect on drug prices in the US or other ‘developed’ countries.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Research isn’t cheap, true. However:

1) The most expensive part of the research is largely paid for with our tax dollars, then later monetized for large corporations.

2) What research the corporations actually do tends to be limited to highly profitable, largely made-up or exaggerated conditions that don’t actually require medication. They don’t waste their research dollars on cheap, effective medications for diseases that don’t primarily affect rich people.

ECA (profile) says:

Love this part.

“Taiwan’s procedures for medical product pricing and reimbursement fail to adequately recognize the value of innovative medical products for patients in Taiwan. “

English translation..
1. They dont understand how much PEOPLE will pay to make themselves HEALTHY.

2. PROFIT, MORE MONEY, PAY ME.

Im sorry that the USA corp attitudes are spreading across this world.
USA corps are only middle men.
They make nothing, they HAVE IT MADE..
Then shipped to the USA..
Then price it AS IF’ it was made in the USA.. By Union labor making premium pay.
what would cost $50 in Taiwan, is sold in the USA at $200-400.
Other nations LOVE the USA, as markups are so high. They will make things in their OWN nation, but they WONT sell them there. They cant make as much money as in OTHER nations.
we already know that drugs are a SUPERIOR market. the Profit margin in drugs is 100-1000 times the cost of the drug.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Love this part.

“Taiwan’s procedures for medical product pricing and reimbursement fail to adequately recognize the value of innovative medical products for patients in Taiwan.”

English translation..
Taiwan’s procedures for medical product pricing and reimbursement fail to adequately take advantage of and exploit patients in Taiwan.

Big Al says:

PBS in Oz

They tried the same thing while negotiating the FTA with Australia. We have a thing called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. What it boils down to is that an approved prescription drug (name brand or generic) is available at a pharmacy for a maximum of $28 per prescription. It doesn’t matter if the ‘cost’ is $300-400, it’s still just $28 (or $6.00 if you are on a pension or unemployment).
Big Pharma didn’t like that idea much and tried to push for ‘real-cost’ prescriptions in the FTA. Australia just told them to bugger off. Health care is for everyone, not just the rich.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

and it begins

the artists tha gives freely so all can enjoy
the scientists that invent for the love of discovery and helping those they use science for.

OH wait not on this planet ya dont
NOPE more people die because of the greed of the USA then they can kill with the weapons they use.

and yup only to make more money and to bribe off the leaderships of those countries , ya know i can feel that this direction is gonna lead to some real nastey revolutions in the future and the fat cats wont be able to stop it.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: and it begins

“OH wait not on this planet ya dont
NOPE more people die because of the greed of the USA then they can kill with the weapons they use.”

Sigh, look, I joke in generalities all the time, but kindly do not lump all Americans or even all of our politicians in with our foreign policy and economic decision making. The two often have very little to do with one another….

:) says:

Most of the U.S. industry problems is because of such policies that instead of competing try to exclude others and this fails every time.

Research will start to be done in other countries, Brazil, India and Taiwan are top class bio-engineering barns. Everything that can be done in the U.S. those countries can also do, and that scares big pharma.

Erosion of that market share will come about to them as it came to other sectors of the U.S. industrial park, because their focuses is not in competition but restricting others to benefit supposedly American interests. This is not the route to take it leads to bad things and definitely is not in the best interests of the American people.

Anonymous Coward says:

USTR

A series of stories from Jamie Love at KEI highlight the troubling cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the US government in trying to raise drug prices in other countries — which very likely will come at the expense of the health of citizens in those countries. The first is about the USTR and its position that drugs in Taiwan are too cheap.

The USTR is part of the Executive Office of the President, the same president that is currently pretending to be working to lower costs and bring health care to Americans. A wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Blamer .. (profile) says:

Taking the P out of Intellectual PROPERTY

People who need medicine, NEED medicine.

I recently heard a great idea about wrapping an opt-in revenue stream around the as-is system.

1. you opt-in
2. sell your medication at cost
3. then receive a proportion of a big government-funded pool of $$$ based on the number of units you sell

Look for a Philosopher’s Zone podcast called “The right to property and the right to health” dated 6th Feb 2010.

ECA (profile) says:

its STILL the same problem

MONEY MONEY MONEY..
BLAME others for your problems, just a Rulers do. Its not my FAULT..money money money.
You see others making money, so you want your PART of it..
So you grab them and kill them or ABSORB them into your corp..MONEY MONEY MONEY..

Its the same with Pirates.
there are 2 types.
1a does it for the fun/entertainment/challenge..
1b does it for MONEY

1b love 1a, and loves his work. But if he could he would HIRE him to help with his work. But as long as he isnt taking MONEY from 1b pocket, he will let it happen.
As soon as others know of 1a, 1b might get upset. HIRE him or KILL HIM..

Lets look at Ma bell, and the gov break up of the Bell system. Did it work? not after a time. They buy each other back and forth and its STILL the same people.

How about the TV corps. There are only 4-5 that own ALL OF IT.

How many companies control the seed crops around the world?? 3-4..most are owned by MONSANTO..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: its STILL the same problem

“Lets look at Ma bell, and the gov break up of the Bell system. Did it work? not after a time. They buy each other back and forth and its STILL the same people.”

If the government didn’t grant monopoly power on infrastructure and allowed anyone to either use existing infrastructure or to build new infrastructure then these corporations can buy each other until they buy each other out of business. The moment they try to exploit their monopoly power past a certain point new competitors will enter the market and take over. It’s the government that creates the lack of competition.

Without patents Monsanto would be nothing. I couldn’t understand much of your post. While I do think SOME IP is good, I think our current laws are absolutely absurd. IP should be the exception, NOT the rule, and a twenty year monopoly is too long.

As for the rest of the post, I’m not sure I understand it.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: LETS SEE

lets see…

“If the government didn’t grant monopoly power on infrastructure and allowed anyone to either use existing infrastructure or to build new infrastructure then these corporations can buy each other until they buy each other out of business. The moment they try to exploit their monopoly power past a certain point new competitors will enter the market and take over. It’s the government that creates the lack of competition.”

a CORP THAT sits over the top and buying and selling, as they like.

Hmm, still sounds like a corp to me.

tHE REST YOU ARE CORRECT IN.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: its STILL the same problem

“Lets look at Ma bell, and the gov break up of the Bell system. Did it work? not after a time.”

I would argue that it worked to a degree that I thought impossible. Not perfectly, but have you forgotten the way it was before the breakup?

Phone service, particularly long distance, was insanely expensive. Only Ma Bell could make devices that attached to the phone line, so those devices sucked. You didn’t own any phone equipment (such as the telephone) yourself. You leased it. And so on.

These are things which are greatly improved now.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: its STILL the same problem

yes, I remember..

But have you looked at your phone bill in the last 10 years?

10 years ago, BASE price was $23
NOW base price is $30

This goes about electrical also..
But how many telephone poles and Updated hardware have you seen installed? replacing/upgrading a relay station is not a small thing. The one in my town hasnt been upgraded in 30 years. The Power relay station hasnt been touched in 40 years.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Patents and pharma

Einstein said “everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler”.
Here we have an oversimplification:
“Many studies have shown that patents on pharma do more harm than good — especially in countries with big healthcare issues.”
Many studies have shown that oversimplification (the half-truth) does more harm than a falsehood.
Here, with respect to large entity patenting (so-called “defensive” patenting, where the intent is to make patents too expensive to contest), ABSOLUTE AGREEMENT!
But, if I find a way to make a medicine, etc., and I have to put out some money to perfect it (or prove it is safe and effective) but with no way to protect myself from, say, Pfizer, the world will just have to suffer.
If, on the other hand, I can get a small entity patent (no more than a few thousand to protect myself from, say, Pfizer, while I perfect it) and find some way to market that invention (and ALL IP should be INVENTIONS; that is, active use rather than filed paperwork) the world will benefit from my invention; because I may get my investment back, and hopefully make some money (and help others).

Anonymous Coward says:

Why don’t you just stay out of healthcare because you have no idea what you are talking about.

Why have you heard very little about how the govt. will lower healthcare costs here in the US in the current debate? Because once govt. is paying for it drug prices (and everything else) will be lowered here in the US. If you don’t think this is true then you are really stupid.

The govt. currently is the largest payor in the US, do you think you can walk into a doctors office and be treated for the same price as a Medicare recipient? I don’t think so. Do you think you can buy prescription drugs cheaper than a Medicare recipient? It is actually against the law.

I have been waiting for Techdirts grand healthcare post but it seems you guys are slower than Congress.

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