The print-edition headline on Danny Hakim’s NY Times piece January 7 read: “the Humira Play: Raise High Prices, Steadily.”
Humira —which my computer keeps changing to “Humor”— is the best-selling drug in the US. Using the word “play” to mean “money-gouging strategy” fits perfectly in a language that describes newly developed weapons as “game changers.”
The price of Humira, an anti-inflammatory drug dispensed in an injectable pen, has risen from about $19,000 a year in 2012, to more than $38,000 today, per patient, after rebates, according to SSR Health, a research firm. That’s an increase of 100 percent.
Pharma bosses probably miss Martin Shkreli, the reigning villain of the industry. If you’ll recall, Mr. Shkreli, as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim, a drug used to fight infections in AIDS patients, and then raised the price overnight to $750 a pill from $13.50. He also trolled critics and spent $2 million on a one-of-a-kind Wu Tang Clan album, before his conviction on three securities fraud charges last year.
For a time, Mr. Shkreli’s antics, along with the soaring price of EpiPens, sold by Mylan, deflected attention from the rest of the industry. A more typical play for drug companies — the Humira play — is to start at a high price and keep raising it ever higher, but incrementally.
“What they have done with Humira is just as unfair, just as morally wrong, but they did it over five years,” said Ben Wakana, a former Obama administration spokesman who became executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, an advocacy group, because his younger brother couldn’t afford Humira without the financial support of their parents…