Plan B+

  • by: |
  • 04/11/2007
On April 9th the New York Times editorial page weighed on the issue of subsidized contraception for university students:

“For almost 20 years, college health centers have been able to purchase contraceptives at nominal prices. This was not a tax-funded subsidy. It was a financial incentive that gave drug manufacturers an exemption from Medicaid pricing rules so they could sell contraceptives and other products to certain charitable groups, like the college clinics, at an extreme discount. In response to concerns that drug companies were abusing this privilege, language was sewn into legislation in 2005 to close a loophole. It also inadvertently slashed this important benefit for clinics and their patients.”

“On some college campuses, the price of brand-name contraceptives has risen from the neighborhood of $5 per month to $40 or even $50. Switching to a generic is an option in some cases, but it can still entail a 300 percent price increase. Generics often run at about $15 per month. Newer contraceptives, like the NuvaRing, which contains a very low hormone dose and does not require a daily action that is easily forgotten, are not yet available generically. Many students are priced out of the market.”

“The spike in price affects more than just consumers of contraceptive devices and pills. College and university health clinics sold these products for a small profit — buying them at, say, $3 and selling them at $5. Even on a small campus, these dollars add up quickly. The money was an important part of health center operating budgets, paying for classes and even subsidizing more expensive medications.”

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could reapply these exemptions with the stroke of a pen. If they do not, Congress should restore this much-needed benefit.”

Spot the inconsistency?

How can you be FOR a government program that provides access to new (and more expensive) treatments (like the NuvaRing) while at the same time being FOR a piece of legislation that would create restrictive formularies that would deny access to new (and more expensive) treatments (like on-patent statins)?

This is the same editorial page that is all gung-ho in support of reversing the non-interference clause and embracing comparative effectiveness measures. It seems that the Gray Lady considers contraception more important than cholesterol.

But you can’t have it both ways.

Further, when government dictates prices, what also goes by the boards is the incentive to develop new products at all.

But, when it comes to contraception, it seems there isn't any such thing as a "me too" product.

(And there isn't.)

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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