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March 2017

Drug Prices: What Can Trump Really Do?

Washington Watch


In the fall of 2015, Martin Shkreli, the founder and former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, ignited a firestorm when his company raised the price of a little-known drug to treat toxoplasmosis to $750 a tablet from $13.50.


Earlier that year, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to a pair of life-saving heart drugs, Nitopress and Isuprel. The same day as the purchase, the company jacked up their list prices by 525% and 212% respectively.


Last year, Mylan, supplier of roughly 95 percent of the nation’s EpiPens, an epinephrine auto-injector used to treat allergy reactions, continued to steadily increase its price, from $57 in 2007 to about $500 today.


Each time sharp drug prices moves into the headlines, political candidates complain and pledge to do something about it, Congressional lawmakers conduct hearings and legislation is proposed. But drug prices keep skyrocketing.


In the 2016 presidential race, candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders all called for action to force drug companies to lower drug prices. Clinton laid out a plan that included creating a government panel that could place limits on drug prices. Trump also called out the industry on the campaign trail, saying he supported the re-importation of drugs from outside the U.S. and that he favored allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug makers on price, something currently prohibited.


Those positions disappeared from the health policy he outlined on his transition website and were replaced by industry-friendly language that included overhauling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Removing the prohibition to let Medicare negotiate drug prices has been opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and leading Republicans, including Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., whose nomination was recently approved to be Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary.


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Spring Break Senior Style

Vintage Vibes


When I was young and heard “older” people say they were not going to snow ski or rollerskate because they might break a leg I swore I would never be one of “them.” I hear readers laughing at my arrogance and empathizing because they once said the same thing.


When our group gathered before a ski instructor for beginner ski lessons in Red River, New Mexico, I was already tired from the struggle to get ski clothes on over the thermal underwear I’d been advised to wear. A tall friend loaned me hers, and the crotch hung somewhere north of my knees so when I walked there was a big wad causing me to waddle like a penguin. I finally got stuffed into coated ski pants that made a swishing sound with every step, like in the olden days when I wore a girdle that made “swish-swish” sounds as my thighs rubbed together. Between the big wad and trying to mute the “swish-swish” I was walking like I had a saddle between my legs. Trudging up stairs and across an acre of thick snow in heavy boots – my energy and enthusiasm had diminished significantly.


Trying to get the skis attached to my boots while my non-athletic body squatted in what felt like a big padded diaper was frustrating. Layers of long johns topped by stiff, waterproof ski pants were restricting my blood circulation. I’d worked up a sweat clomping up the stairs, but I wasn’t about to go change and have to once again struggle with all the equipment.


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