Is Pfizer’s CEO being serious?!?

Pfizer CEO Ian Read’s recent interview with Forbes may have produced one of the craziest lines I’ve ever heard:

“I understand the physicians saying, ‘Look, these prices are too high,’ ” Read says. “ It’s because their patients can’t get access. That is an insurance issue.”

Here is a link to the full Forbes story.

I honestly laughed out loud when I read this.  I also wonder what he was trying to accomplish firing shots at insurance companies.  FiercePharma wrote a piece based on the article and Pfizer has responded to FiercePharma rebutting their article.  Unless, Forbes has completely misquoted Mr. Read, the above statement is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard a CEO of a drug company say and here is why:

  1. No one is preventing the drug company from lowering its price.
  2. When insurers cover a medication and provide access to their members, the costs are spread among the entire plan.  The costs of access are paid for by a combination of member premium + member cost share (copayment, deductible, etc).
  3. Physicians aren’t saying drug prices are too high simply because their patients can’t get access.  They are merely stating the opinion that the drug prices are in fact: TOO HIGH.
  4. Mr. Read was also discussing cancer drugs during the Forbes article.  Cancer drugs are in a class known as antineoplastic drugs which fall under the 6 “protected classes” according to CMS, which means formularies must include substantially all drugs in these six categories that are approved by the FDA.

Drug pricing has become extremely complicated and often confusing for the general public.  The idea that the drug company who is selling the drug has no control over the price of said drug is absolutely ridiculous.  I have a feeling that the Pfizer public relations team is going to have their hands full over the next few weeks dealing with backlash from this article.  I guess Martin Shkreli isn’t the only drug company leader that is out of touch.

Ian Read2



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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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