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News > World

Drug Companies Rip off Patients by $3 Billion a Year: Report

  • Hand with an assortment of pills.

    Hand with an assortment of pills. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 March 2016

Cancer researchers call out Big Pharmas relentless attempt to further increase its high profits by making us pay for drugs that we never use.

A report by a group of cancer researchers published Tuesday claims that health insurers and patients pay up to US$3 billion a year on drugs that go to waste.

The loss is intentional, part of an industry strategy to sell one-size-fits-all vials of medication in order to increase its skyrocketing profits.

NEWS: Patients, Doctors Protest TPP Trade Deal on World Cancer Day

Most cancer drug doses are tailored to the individual patient, which means that the doctor decides how many pills the patient should take during the course of a therapy and based on the patients condition and body size. Knowing this, pharmaceutical companies package drugs in quantities that doctors do not usually prescribe.

Accordingly, while Patient A might need 100 pills of drug B, that drug is only supplied in 150-pill packages, making the leftover 50 pills that are typically thrown away by nurses or other health personnel.

Prescription drug prices are an important contributor to overall healthcare costs for many nations, forcing insurance companies and consequently individuals to pay prices for drugs well above the cost of research and development. Whereas insured patients often think they do not experience the cost of their medicine directly, their insurance companies do, which then leads to charge higher monthly insurance premiums.

This problem is especially persistent in the United States, where the pharmaceutical industry has great power . In Europe many medicines are not only sold at much lower prices but also distributed in smaller vial sizes.

It is not only cancer drugs that are affected by this strategy, but arthritis drugs such as Remicade from Johnson & Johnson; approximately 12 percent, or US$500 million, of the drug’s $4.3 billion in sales comes from pills that are thrown away. 

Researchers have calculated that the amount of money spent on wasted drugs could be reduced to US$400 million if tighter regulations were in place, such as requiring pharmaceutical companies to produce vials in several sizes.

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