[Ip-health] WashPost: Louisiana considers radical step to counter high drug prices: Federal intervention

Steven Knievel sknievel at citizen.org
Wed Jul 5 09:02:20 PDT 2017

Carolyn Johnson has a new WashPost story on the Louisiana proposal to procure generic HCV medicines. 

Public Citizen, Health GAP, Social Security Works and Treatment Action Group jointly submitted comments to Louisiana regarding this proposal:

Louisiana considers radical step to counter high drug prices: Federal intervention

By Carolyn Y. Johnson July 3 


A handful of powerful new medicines offer high cure rates and few side effects. But because the drugs also launched with staggering list prices — as much as $94,500 for a 12-week course of treatment — Louisiana and other states have decided to ration care to Medicaid patients, waiting for people to get severe liver damage before providing access to the medicine.

Now, Gee is considering a radical move to get treatment to the thousands of Louisiana residents who need it but are not sick enough to qualify — asking the federal government to step in to drive prices down, perhaps by overriding the patent protections drug companies hold over the medicines.


Gee will decide over the coming months whether to move forward with the controversial strategy. Gee could ask the federal government to invoke a little-known law that allows it to employ companies’ drug patents for the government’s use. After essentially overriding the patents, the government could pay the companies as little as $1,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.


If Gee moves forward or is able to leverage the threat of intervention to wring deep concessions on price, it could be a powerful precedent.
“Secretary Gee is . . . directly challenging the power of a drug company to essentially determine who lives and dies by pricing products so high that she can’t buy them for her population,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University. “It puts the issue into a much clearer posture than just sitting around saying, ‘We can’t afford these drugs for poor people.’ ”


 “The bottom line for me is my patients are developing organ damage and I have to wait until they have organ damage until I can access medication for hepatitis C,” said Jason Halperin, an infectious-disease clinician at CrescentCare, a federally qualified health center in New Orleans.

Carolyn Johnson is a reporter covering the business of health. She previously wrote about science at The Boston Globe.
 Follow @carolynyjohnson

Steven Knievel
Access to Medicines Advocate
Public Citizen | Protecting Health, Safety and Democracy
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