A Small Step Forward For Americans Filling Prescriptions

Ed Morrissey posted an article at Hot Air today about the new initiative rolled out by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

The article reports:

Democrats ate the GOP’s lunch on health-care messaging in 2018’s midterms. The Trump administration might be preparing better for the 2020 election. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar rolled out a new initiative today that would allow for prescription purchases from Canada, addressing a key Democratic talking point on the cost of health care:

“President Trump has been clear: for too long American patients have been paying exorbitantly high prices for prescription drugs that are made available to other countries at lower prices. When we released the President’s drug pricing blueprint – PDF for putting American patients first, we said we are open to all potential solutions to combat high drug prices that protect patient safety, are effective at delivering lower prices, and respect choice, innovation and access,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “Today’s announcement outlines the pathways the Administration intends to explore to allow safe importation of certain prescription drugs to lower prices and reduce out of pocket costs for American patients. This is the next important step in the Administration’s work to end foreign freeloading and put American patients first.”

The article lists some of the details of the plan. Please follow the link above for more information.

The article also lists some of the problems with the plan:

The question of pharmaceutical importation has its complexities, and it might not be a great idea in terms of long-term policy outcomes. For one thing, drug prices in Canada are artificially low thanks to intervention by the Canadian government, which will be tougher to maintain if demand increases exponentially via re-importation into the US. (Canadians in particular might not be very happy about what happens to their drug prices.) It doesn’t solve the major problems in pharmaceutical production costs, which are consolidation in the industry, copyright issues, and bureaucratic delays in FDA approvals, among others. It’s a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.

However, it’s going to be a very popular Band-Aid in the short run. The new HHS effort also lends itself to a slow rollout, which will play right into Trump’s need to pre-empt Democrats on health care in this cycle…

The article takes a rather cynical view regarding the motive for this action, but at least temporarily many Americans will appreciate the savings. On a personal note, one of the maintenance drugs my husband takes for heart problems sells for $600 a month. With the help of our health insurance, we have managed to get that price down to $70 a month, but the idea of having to pay $600 a month out-of-pocket for a drug is more than a little frightening.

This is a small step in the right direction. I understand that high drug prices are the result of the procedures for the invention, development, and selling of a new drug, but Americans shouldn’t have to pay for all of the research while other people reap the rewards of that research without paying for it.

The Need For A Reality Check

Green energy is a wonderful concept. Energy in Iceland is almost entirely green because the country sits on a number of volcanoes that supply it with thermal energy. I’m not sure that I am willing to live on a volcano to get thermal energy, but that is one way to go green. However, the quest for green energy where there is not such an obvious energy source has not been particularly successful.

CNS News posted an article yesterday about the statement put out by Speaker Pelosi to recognize Black History Month.

The article has the entire statement, but I think the focus is interesting:

Democrats will be pushing a “For the People” agenda that will include raising wages by building green infrastructure.

“And we are pushing forward a bold, ambitious agenda For The People to make good on the promise of the American Dream for everyone by lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs, raising wages by rebuilding America with green, modern infrastructure, and strengthening our democracy by ensuring that our government works for the public interest, not the special interests,” Pelosi said.

Let’s talk about rebuilding America with green, modern infrastructure. Green energy is one of the major special interest groups in America.

In 2015, The Washington Times reported:

Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $2.2 billion in expected costs from the federal government’s energy loan guarantee programs, according to a new audit Monday that suggests the controversial projects may not pay for themselves, as officials had promised.

Nearly $1 billion in loans have already defaulted under the Energy Department program, which included the infamous Solyndra stimulus project and dozens of other green technology programs the Obama administration has approved, totaling nearly about $30 billion in taxpayer backing, the Government Accountability Office reported in its audit.

The hefty $2.2 billion price tag is actually an improvement over initial estimates, which found the government was poised to face $4 billion in losses from the loan guarantees. But as the projects have come to fruition, they’ve performed better, leaving taxpayers with a shrinking — though still sizable — liability.

It’s a good thing Speaker Pelosi didn’t say anything about lowering taxes–maybe the increased wages with increased taxes will pay for the green energy.

This green energy idea has not been successful when tried before.

In August 2014 The Daily Caller posted an article about Spain’s attempt to convert to green energy:

According to a new report by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, Spain’s green energy policies have resulted in skyrocketing electricity prices, billions of euros in debt and rising carbon dioxide emissions.

“For years, President Obama has pointed to Europe’s energy policies as an example that the United States should follow,” said IER in a statement on their new study. “However, those policies have been disastrous for countries like Spain, where electricity prices have skyrocketed, unemployment is over 25 percent, and youth unemployment is over 50 percent.”

Spain began heavily subsidizing green energy sources, like wind and solar, in the early 2000s with its“Promotion Plan for Renewable Energies. The country used a combination of generous feed-in tariffs, green energy generation quotas and green power subsidies to boost renewable energy development in the country and lower its carbon dioxide emissions.

…But what seemed like a booming green energy economy on the surface was really becoming a costly way to help drive Spain into economic recession. By 2011, Spain’s electricity prices stood at 29.46 U.S. ¢/kilowatt-hour — two and a half times what electricity cost in the U.S. at the time.

President Trump has helped all Americans. We have the lowest unemployment among minorities that we have had in a very long time. Wages are going up, taxes are going down, and the workforce participation rate is climbing. I suggest that if Speaker Pelosi truly wants to help minorities during Black History Month she should support President Trump’s economic agenda.

When The Federal Government Gets Involved In Medicine

Townhall posted an article today about the lack of logic in the current move to put more restrictions on opioids but decrease restrictions on marijuana use.

The article reminds us that marijuana is very loosely regulated in some states:

For example, in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal, users can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. This is enough to be stoned every day. Once you have a prescription, you can refill it for an entire year without going back to renew the prescription. It’s easy to get a prescription in most states that have legalized medical marijuana, just inform a doctor you have pain. And if you live in a state like California that has legalized recreational marijuana, there aren’t even any limits on how much you can buy (just how much you can have on hand).

Opioids are another story:

By October of this year, 33 states had passed laws limiting opioid prescriptions. They limit the supply a doctor may prescribe to seven days or less. This exponentially increases problems with timely refilling prescriptions. One chronic pain sufferer complained, “The insurance companies are lying to their own subscribers in the Prior Auth Dept, ignoring, transferring to dead lines, long appeals that go nowhere, on & on….” It also means more co-pays. Some states are now requiring doctors and pharmacists to take a course on opioids. 

Many states have limited the maximum dose as well. Federal opioid prescribing guidelines recommend doctors use caution in prescribing above 50 MME/day. But many patients need 90 MME/day or higher. In Arizona, patients are limited to 90 MME/day. There are exceptions for some types of illnesses — but not chronic pain. For those sufferers, they can only receive a higher dose if their doctor consults with a board-certified pain specialist. 

The article concludes:

The reality, according to the National Pain Report, is “America’s so-called ‘opioid epidemic’ is caused by street drugs (some of them diverted prescription drugs)  rather than by prescriptions made by doctors to chronic pain patients.” More people die from illegal opioids than prescription opioids. Opioid prescriptions were already decreasing before the crackdown started. In Arizona, prescriptions decreased every year since 2013, a 10 percent decrease total.  

And just because a few doctors overprescribed opioids does not mean everyone should be treated like a dangerous addict at risk of overdosing. One size does not fit all. Someone who has been taking a higher dosage of prescription opioids for years without incident should be allowed to continue.  

Over 11 percent of the population suffers from chronic pain. It is cruel and bad medical science to prevent this segment from the population from getting the only relief that works for many of them. The laws need to be changed to allow those legitimately suffering to access adequate amounts of prescription opioids, without risk to their doctor or pharmacist. It makes no sense as we’re relaxing the laws prohibiting marijuana.    

Marijuana has somehow achieved something of a protected status. At the same time we have all but eliminated any positive image of tobacco smoking from our culture, we are promoting the idea of legalizing marijuana all over the country. It truly defies logic.

Score One For Consumers

On Wednesday The Western Journal posted an article with the following heading, “Trump Signs Law To Lower Drug Prices, Ends Gag Orders Against Pharmacists.”

The article reports:

Currently, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers use the gag clauses to “forbid pharmacists from proactively telling consumers if their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out-of-pocket rather than using their insurance plan,” according to a press release from Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the bill’s sponsor.

Trump also signed Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s Know the Lowest Price Act, which “prohibits Medicare drug plans from putting a gag clause on a pharmacy in their contracts,” according to CNN.

The Patients’ Right To Know Drug Prices Act would lead to “a slight decrease in federal revenues,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That decrease could be offset by another provision in the bill, reported Politico.

Collins’s bill also targets “pay-for-delay,” a tactic where a brand drug company pays a generic manufacturer to withhold a product that would compete with the brand drug for market share.

Closing this loophole could save consumers and taxpayers money, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Who would think that using your debit card to buy your [prescription] drugs could be less expensive than using your insurance card? It’s counterintuitive. Americans have the right to know which payment method provides the most savings when purchasing their prescription drugs,” Collins tweeted Wednesday after Trump signed the bill.

If consumers pay for drugs out of their pockets because it is cheaper rather than relying on the insurance companies to pay for these drugs, eventually the insurance companies will be able to charge less for their drug policies, saving consumers money.

I can give you a personal example of this. When living in another state, I was prescribed a maintenance drug that my husband’s medical insurance covered at the time. My co-pay was $50 a month. When I moved to North Carolina, my health insurance did not cover the drug. My out-of-pocket cost was $50. Hmmm.

We need across-the-board reform in the area of medical insurance. The first thing to do might be to get the government as far away from that area of the economy as possible. There are fairly simple ways to make sure that everyone has access to healthcare (everyone has access by law to emergency rooms regardless of their ability to pay). It is time to tell the government to find something else to do.

An Alternative To ADHD Medication

In September, The Atlantic Magazine posted an article about dealing with children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As someone who married into a family with about five generations that we are pretty sure of with ADHD or ADD, I was very interested in the article. I have learned from my personal experience that ADD or ADHD is different in girls than boys, and I have also learned that in some cases, ADD or ADHD can be dealt with without the use of prescription drugs. My husband controls his ADD with coffee. A few cups in the morning will slow him down enough so that he can concentrate. One of my daughters controls her ADD and her son’s ADHD with physical activity. The article in The Atlantic reinforces the idea that physical activity can be used to control ADHD. Before I quote the article, I would like to mention that ADD and ADHD exploded as a problem about the time recess was taken out of the lower grades in many of our public schools. We need to rethink that.

The article in The Atlantic reports:

Last year a very similar study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids. The modest conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.” The researchers went on to write that this finding should be “carefully explored with further studies.”

 “If physical activity is established as an effective intervention for ADHD,” they continued, “it will also be important to address possible complementary effects of physical activity and existing treatment strategies …” Which is a kind of phenomenal degree of reservation compared to the haste with which millions of kids have been introduced to amphetamines and other stimulants to address said ADHD. The number of prescriptions increased from 34.8 to 48.4 million between 2007 and 2011 alone. The pharmaceutical market around the disorder has grown to several billion dollars in recent years while school exercise initiatives have enjoyed no such spoils of entrepreneurialism. But, you know, once there is more research, it may potentially be advisable to consider possibly implementing more exercise opportunities for kids.

Rather than create a generation of children hooked on drugs that treat ADHD, let’s bring back recess. It may not solve all of the problems, but I’ll bet that some children could stop their drugs and others could go on lower doses of drugs if we brought back recess.