Drug Corporations Are Taking Advantage Of You In This Crazy Way

March 9th 2017

Open Society Foundations


It’s no secret that drug corporations are ‘getting away with murder’ by charging Americans the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and putting their profits over American lives.

Their justification? That high prices are needed to pay for research and development, without which we’d have no medical innovation.

But that’s not true.   

Did you know that your money plays a key role in the pharmaceutical industry, even before you shell out for those expensive drugs you need at the pharmacy?

That’s right. In effect, you’re paying twice for your medicines.

Here’s how it works.

First, our taxes pay for a ton of scientific research and development to create life-saving drugs through grants to public universities, medical schools, and the National Institutes of Health, which spends more than $32 billion a year on biomedical R&D.  Although drug corporations do some of their own research and development, they routinely spend more of their money on marketing and lobbying.   

Next, you pay to buy the medicines your money helped create, which drug corporations have acquired and sold back to you at unnecessarily high prices.  

Sovaldi, a lifesaving hepatitis C drug, is a good example.

Solvaldi was developed in part with public funding at a small drug corporation called Pharmasset. In 2011, a bigger drug corporation called Gilead purchased Pharmasset and set the price of Sovaldi at $1000 a pill (adding up to $84,000 for a course of treatment).

The result? Gilead’s CEO and its shareholders made billions while hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who contributed to the drug’s development can’t afford the treatment they need.

This is a common story for the pharmaceutical industry, which is one of the most profitable industries in the world.

The prostate cancer drug Xtandi was developed at UCLA entirely through taxpayer-supported research grants, was then bought by Big Pharma, and then sold in the U.S. for a whopping $129,000 per treatment. The same drug is priced at a fraction of that in Canada and other countries.   

And by now we’ve all heard about the EpiPen.

The EpiPen was created for the Department of Defense in the 1970s and then bounced from owner to owner until drug corporation Mylan ended up with the patent in 2007.

Under Mylan, the price of the EpiPen has risen over 400% to $600 despite the actual medicine in the device costing a dollar.

Medical research and development is expensive, risky and incredibly important.

But it’s not fair that taxpayers who fund a lot of that research and development are then charged exorbitant prices so that Big Pharma can make bigger profits.

A quarter of Americans who use prescription drugs cannot afford them, and for many it is a matter of life and death. That’s not how our system should work. Medicines developed with taxpayer money should be affordable for everyone.

To learn more about how drug corporations are taking advantage of you, watch Open Society Foundation's animated video here.