Home>Articles>OPINION: Nevada Can’t Afford to Do Big Pharma’s Bidding

Prescription costs (Photo: Flickr)

OPINION: Nevada Can’t Afford to Do Big Pharma’s Bidding

Here’s hoping Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen recognize as much

By James Smack, July 21, 2023 11:22 am

In March, President Biden spoke in Nevada about the need to reduce drug prices.

The president is right: As things stand, Nevadans have experienced the highest increase in healthcare costs in the nation over the past three decades. A recent survey conducted by Altarum Health found that nearly one in three living here have experienced hardship due to high healthcare costs.  

The CDC reported earlier this month around 9 million people nationwide are not taking their prescriptions, or are taking lower dosages, due to high cost. Many of these people are our neighbors right here in the Silver State, making decisions between their prescriptions and paying rent or putting gas in their car to get to work.

Unfortunately, however, in the three months since President Biden’s Nevada speech, some members of Congress have taken Big Pharma’s advice on how to “reduce” drug prices. They have done so by introducing a series of bills to regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which would only inflate the cost of prescription drugs even higher if passed.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on lowering prescription drug costs, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

If Big Pharma is the healthcare industry’s equivalent of Lex Luther, PBMs, the groups health plans pay to manage their healthcare programs, are Superman. While the drug companies continue exploring ways to increase drug prices, PBMs use their leverage to disapprovingly wave their finger, saying “not so fast.”

PBMs negotiate rebates and bulk pricing discounts with Big Pharma, thereby ensuring that insurance companies, health plans, and corporations can offer affordable medications to their beneficiaries, or at least ensuring that said medications are more affordable than they otherwise would have been if Big Pharma was left alone.

A recent study from renowned economist Casey Mulligan, the former chair of President Trump Council of Economic Advisers who now works at the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that PBMs save us approximately $145 billion on an annual basis.

The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office have also corroborated that PBMs save us money. A GAO study from 2016 showed that they helped offset Medicare Part D spending by 20%, while the CBO has identified PBMs as crucial healthcare actors that help limit costs.

It’s understandable why Big Pharma doesn’t like these groups: they’re reducing drug prices!

By contrast, the dominant drug wholesalers in the U.S., namely Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and McKesson Corp., wield power in the opposite direction. Controlling over 90% of the drug supply, these three behemoths, each boasting a net worth of over $20 billion, can inflate the prices on our pharmaceutical shelves at will.

But while these three companies are currently under investigation by 49 state attorneys general for alleged price-fixing, PBMs are serving as the shining lights fighting for everyday citizens. Congress regulating them would be the equivalent of tying their arms and legs in chains. 

Big Pharma would love that, but Main Street wouldn’t. We all know that the road to affordable healthcare is complex and challenging. Misdirected efforts toward regulating PBMs, who have proven their worth in reigning in drug costs, risks exacerbating the situation rather than solving it. For Nevadans who have borne the brunt of surging healthcare costs, this is a risk they cannot afford. It’s the actual “bad guys”, Big Pharma and the major drug wholesalers, who should be the focus of congressional scrutiny so the healthcare industry can ultimately provide affordable and accessible drugs for all. 

Here’s hoping Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen recognize as much.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
James Smack
Latest posts by James Smack (see all)
Spread the news:


One thought on “OPINION: Nevada Can’t Afford to Do Big Pharma’s Bidding

  1. Mr. Smack,
    I agree. My current medications for a multitude of reasons are crucial and at the beginning, were hardly covered. I for one… Never experienced the promised Obama Care… almost died and was hospitalized twice and needed an emergency hysterectomy.

    What you are doing the important work in… is bringing light to the day to day… that can lead to emergencies . I don’t see how those two you mention are even in touch at all with everyday people?

    If they are … then they would do an interview with you?.

    If they won’t entertain at all speaking to their constituents in Nevada, then they don’t care…at all.

    I hope they speak to you and address your points … if they are truly about the people they are elected to represent and aren’t instead really creepy politicized slimeballs who are only interested in getting financially rich from special interest groups. That would be very telling.

    Thank you Mr. Smack for your written opinion.

    Inquiring minds like mine would like to see how things play out to see who is about the people and who rejects the people. Shameful that it is this way, unfortunate as it is… truth always is the end game.

    Elise Carey, Las Vegas, NV

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *