Wow, this drug is really expens — Look! A squirrel!!

For years, the pharmaceutical industry has had a pretty simple strategy for discussing the prices it charges for its drugs: don’t.

Indeed, whenever the high price of pharmaceuticals is in the news, drugmakers try desperately to change the subject and distract from the issue. Now more than ever, that strategy is on full display as the industry is under increasing fire for the prices of specialty pharmaceuticals – some priced at more than $100,000 for a single course of treatment. Shifting blame may have been effective in the past, but when public health and access to life-saving drugs is being threatened by these increasingly outrageous prices, it just won’t do the trick anymore. As the drugmakers ramp up yet another campaign of distraction, here are some simple facts to consider:

FACT: Astronomical prices for specialty drugs will blow up Medicare Part D budgets and force higher premiums for seniors

An analysis in Health Affairs last week found that the price of the important hepatitis C drug Sovaldi could increase the cost of Medicare Part D and premiums for seniors by 8%. From this one drug alone, seniors on Part D could see an 8% premium hike.

FACT: Astronomical prices for specialty drugs will devastate state Medicaid budgets and displace important priorities like education and infrastructure

One recent analysis highlighted on Vox illustrated that, because Sovaldi is so expensive, California could potentially spend more administering the drug for people on Medicaid than it does for K-12 and secondary education combined. Yes, you read that correctly.

FACT: Astronomical prices for specialty drugs put upward pressure on premiums for all consumers

At its core, the cost of health insurance is a reflection of the cost of health care. The skyrocketing prices that drugmakers are charging has a ripple effect throughout the system, raising premiums and increasing health care costs for individuals, families, and employers.

FACT: Health plans offer consumers a range of coverage options, including policies with lower cost-sharing

To distract from their unjustifiable pricing, drugmakers have latched onto distorted coverage comparisons that ignore the range of cost-sharing options consumers can choose from. Hey, anything beats talking about the actual price.

FACT: Consumers have out-of-pocket limits that mean health plans and state and federal governments rather than patients are paying the vast majority of the cost of these stratospherically priced drugs

Pharmaceutical companies know that consumers’ out-of-pocket costs are capped under the Affordable Care Act, allowing them to ask for what amounts to a blank check from insurers and government programs. Not surprisingly, drugmakers are making the law work for them.

BONUS FACT: Drugmakers have no straight-face explanation to justify the increasingly astronomical prices they have been charging for their medications

That’s why they want to talk about anything – ANYTHING – other than the prices they are charging.

The most important fact is that we all want patients to have access to the best treatments. That’s why we cannot afford to allow pharmaceutical companies to have us simply look the other way any longer when it comes to pricing. These unsustainable drug prices threaten our health care system – public and private – access for patients, as well as the very innovation that pharmaceutical companies relish. We cannot have sustainable innovation without sustainable prices to support it, and that’s why health plans and a diverse set of stakeholders have called on drugmakers to come to the table to find a private sector solution to this challenge before the government feels like it needs to.

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