tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera December 13, 2015 2:30pm-3:01pm EST
look down on street artists, people here continue to look up to the next piece of art to appear. for more on everything we're covering right here, aljazeera.com. i'm in for ali velshi. pills and profits, a wave of drug price hikes is a prescription for trouble. a long way from home, the people in donald trump old neighborhood has something to say to the republican front runner. it's no surprise that more americans are outraged by rising prescription drugs.
50% of all adults takes at least one prescription. that means more of us are feeling the effects of rising prices. last year overall spending on prescription drugs jumped 12.2% to nearly 300 billion dollars. that's five times what prices jumped in 2013. later in the show we will talk about one reason for that spike. expensive new speciality drugs to treat hepatitis c. it is not just new drugs fuelling the jump in spending. the wall street journal analysed prices for top 30 selling drugs, including old medicines, it showed increases averaging 76% from 2010 to 2014. that was more than elite times general-- eight times general inflation. companies rely on increases to provide sales growth. that helps when some of the
demand for the drugs is weakening. the anger over rising drug prices has ramped up because of this guy, martin. he described it would be fine to raise the price of an older drug used by aids and cancer patient by more than 5,000%. he is a new brand of ceos of buying rights to old drugs and jacking up their prices. at a hearing on wednesday, senator referred to news that he had paid 2 million dollars for the only copy of the latest album by a rap group. take a listen. >> i noticed in the morning paper this is the same guy who thought it was a great idea to pay millions of dlors for the only existing-- dollars for the only existing album there is something funny about a united states senator
making reference to a rap group, but the debate over fills and profits over - pills and profits is not a joke. anyone who thought this brash young ceo might back down in the heat of the criticism by prominent political figures has been proven wrong >> at 32 he quickly became the poster child of corporate agreed this summer when he-- greed when he raised the price of a drug from $13 to $750 a pill. he drew the wrath of the public. he was called a spoiled brass by donald trump. he was accused of price gouging. it is used to treat hiv and cancer patients with weak immune systems to fight a parasite
paras, itc infection. >> i probably would have raised the price higher is probably what i would have done. >> why in some >> i think health care prices are inelastic . i could have raised it higher. no-one wants to say it, no-one is proud of it t but this is a capitalist society, system and rules and my investors expect me to back them, to go to 100% of the profit curve that we're all taught in mba class. >> reporter: we made repeated requests to speak with him but got no response. the discount was to be discounted to some hospitals by up to 50%, but that still leaves the drug at $375 per pill.
that's call a joke. this organization represents aids drug assistance programs nationwide. he met with the company in washington dc demanding that the price be restored to the original price. >> i think they engaged in some speculation and they speculated with patients' lives. they bought a drug where they knew there wouldn't be competition and he held people hostage for it. that's not how we do drug pricing in u.s. >> reporter: he said the profits will go into research. doctors say it isn't needed because the version current version is fine. >> we're not going to stand by and say we're not going to be able to use this medicine. people are working on magivering work arounds, and one is what if
we can get the compound that goes into making the drug the powder that is making the fill and make the fill ourselves-- pill ourselves. >> reporter: that has come in the form of an alternative of express scripts. the drug itself is not fda approved, but its ingredients are >> what we rather have daraprim yes. if we can't get it, we have to make our own. >> reporter: he doesn't seem phased. he has been busy live streaming his activities and taunting critics like hillary clinton. tweeting her: >> try to be a ceo and maximise profits and not get kicked outer of a company. >> reporter: as you might imagine touring was a bulls eye
was a criticism at wednesday's hearing on cap toll hill by the special committee on ageing. no representatives from the company attended the hovering to explain their pricing. law makers heard from health care experts. the director for the center of hospital finance and management from the school of public health and he joins me now. thanks for joining us tonight. we see there's no shortage of outrage about rising drug prices. beyond all this anger, how much realistically can be done. the price hikes are legal and is there anything that can be done?
onto the market and that's a long time. so i might say it's just not worth it, but if i could get it on the market in six months, it would be a huge difference and somebody like touring or the next touring probably wouldn't choose to actually go and do what he is doing because for six months you can't make enough money to make all this worthwhile. for two or three years it probably does make sense with touring, we're talking about an older drug, right, but there are new life saving drugs coming down the pipe. we've seen and we will be talking later about a new drug to fight hepatitis c that can cure the disease, but some have made the argument that medicare should be able to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers. do you see that as being the answer in terms of curbing these skyrocketing prices?
he has got a monopoly and he will choose to use it for as long as he possibly can. so if medicare came in and negotiated with somebody whose not willing to negotiate, then they're not going to get very far. for most drug companies they clearly would, but for him probably not. just because of who he is and his operating model moving away from touring, overall we see the outrage. people's blood just boils when they see the price of drugs that they need, in some cases to stay alive. what is the answer?
when you have two or four the price goes down dramatically. what we've seen over the last several years is a lot of consolidation in the generic industry, so there's not nearly the lovely of competition-- level of competition that we saw five or 10 years ago. somebody like the federal trade commission, the department of health and human services, the congress that is to take a careful look at the level of competition that's going on. in the brand side, there are some very expensive drugs and hepatitis c drug, for example, that you mentioned, only about one in ten americans who should benefit from this drug, about three million americans, only about one in ten of them are actually getting it. the reason why is it's so expensive, that most people just can't afford it and that to a lot of the extent the va can't afford it nor can the medicaid what can be done to make those drugs more accessible is the question.
>> essentially the thing to do is what happens in other countries. they essentially say the most we're willing to pay for this drug is x, and when they say that, then the drug companies know how much they can charge because if they charge more than that, they essentially know that the country won't buy that drug. we in the united states haven't been willing to make that statement until we really are we're going to end up paying what we do now, which is about twice as much as what other countries pay for exactly the same drug a lot more to talk about. we appreciate your coming on the show tonight. certainly this debate is going to be going on for quite some time. gerard anderson from the john hopkins school. coming up patient. >> i'm not sick enough. they want me to get sicker
we're talking tonight about pills and profits and the debate over rising prices for prescription drugs. a report minces no words with a current drug to treat hepatitis c. the report offers little comfort to the patients who need the drug to stay alive. it raises the question of how much we're willing to pay to survive. america tonight gee joiechenn has the report >> reporter: the end stage of the disease is horrible.
it can take decades for the liver to be destroyed, but unchecked, it eventually will. >> there aren't a whole lot of pleasant ways to day and this is a-- to die. the bleeding can be extremely difficult to control >> reporter: in the final stages, the damage can even reach the brain. >> it really requires a lot of specialised care. it can be very painful, it is really difficult to watch if you're a loved one and watching someone suffer. >> reporter: two of the most common causes of liver disease in the united states are alcoholism and hepatitis c, a blood born illness often spread through dirty needles. hospital care and common medical procedures have also led to outbreaks. an estimated three million americans have the hepatitis c virus.
experts warn most of the infected don't even know it. >> i didn't know until i had a hip replacement in 05. so they had to do preliminary blood work, dental wood, blah, blah. that's when it came up positive >> reporter: she traced her infection back to a tattoo. at first she didn't recognise how severely her health had become compromised. >> every now and then i feel lethargic, almost like an flu-like feeling >> reporter: your big fear why your liver? reporter: under treatment for other unrelated health problems, she asked her doctor about a new hepatitis c drug she
saw on tv. >> he explained a little bit better how much it's the latest thing and everybody is using it and it can treat you in eight to 12 weeks >> reporter: it's a cure? reporter: what did you think about this drug? reporter: before you get sicker. >> yes. >> reporter: parvone and a related drug from the same drug maker have proven to be more effective than older hepatitis c therapys with cure rates well over 90% in three months of treatment or less. the cost of the cure is nearly $100,000 per patient. >> it's very expensive. so even if there is a cut rate discount, it's still very expensive.
>> reporter: jay costman in her doctor. like most of his low-income patients at the john bell health center, his health care is medicaid. >> we treat all inner city, low income predominantly, either insured or unassured patients >> reporter: that means taxpayerser and states are left to foot the bill. across the nation states have thrown up road blocks. most states have added restrictions that delay or make it difficult for hepatitis c medicaid patients to get their treatment. her application was rejected four times. >> denied completely because it is not medically necessary because you do not need the hepatitis-- meet the hepatitis c criteria >> reporter: they won't pay for
the mirror axle drug until her disease gets worse. the doctor has said you're sick enough >> yes >> reporter: the health say you're not >> they want me to get sicker. >> reporter: her experience is not uncommon. privacy insurers and medicaid reject patients who are not deemed sick enough. to a patient like this woman, it is a cruel and possibly life threatening rejection. but for medicaid programs which provide health care for the poor, it is a pragmatic and necessary decision. mat sailer's organization directors. >> if we were to simply open up the doors and say yes, everyone who is suffering from this disease at any stage, at any condition, everyone gets it, we would be spending as much on
that one drug as we would on every other single drug in the program combined. >> reporter: you're going to bankrupt the system >> yes. we would have to figure out a way to stop providing as much nursing home care for frail seniors, stop providing as much prenatal care for pregnant women or something else. >> reporter: so you're telling society we've got to choose. >> medicaid has to choose every day. we cover 70 million americans and we do so under very, very constrained budgetary parameters. >> reporter: he says even though pharmaceutical companies are required by law to negotiate with medicaid programs, the maker of the break through hepatitis c treatment resisted giving the states much of a deal >> they didn't want to play because they didn't have to. they knew that they had the product, lot you was-- >> reporter: the only product that works this well >> yes.
so they can sort of say, no, we think you will pay our price because we think you will have to >> reporter: the drug maker declined an interview, but in an email defended the price of its treatments. arguing that the one-time cost of the drug pales in comparison to the lifetime cost of treating the disease. with drug costs already as much as 15% of state medicaid budgets, add more mirror axle drugs being invented. analysts say hepatitis c drugs could be just the first test of how far america's health care budget can be sprigged and who-- stretched and who the society is willing to pay for >> the bulk of the people receiving the benefit are people who are not paying into the system in the first place. many of them if they have contracted the disease due to their own behaviour and they're going to potentially continue to pursue health threatening behaviours,
even once they're cured of the disease it's an issue >> reporter: the argument doesn't hold water with this doctor knowing he must treat the patients knowing that they can't get the medicines that will save their lives >> my job is to make people feel better and try to cure deceases that we can cure and so when you know you can do that but you can't because of availability, it's - you do, you feel like you're letting someone down. >> reporter: he says repeated delays and denials of approval for hepatitis c treatments for poor patients is discriminatory. >> the public perception of the injection drug user who is doing it to themselves. so, therefore, why should we spend money on that. do we withhold cardiac surgery for people because they have high cholesterol because they're overweight? no. we don't do that.
so we shouldn't withhold, again, curative life-saving therapys for people who have another underlying condition. >> reporter: this woman who has no history of iv drug use sees the repeated denials as proof insurers don't care if she lives or dies. >> i think that's what the insurance companies want you to do, get discarets >> reporter: she didn't about to give up. >> i'm worth having this drug. i'm worth it. >> reporter: even if it's a hundred thousand dollars?
donald trump, you can't deny that he knows how to get attention. his plan to ban muslims from entering america have been widely condemned around the world. the neighborhood he once called home is no exception. that's what we found when we visited the streets of queens new york where a young donald trump grew up.
these are the new faces in donald trump's old neighborhood. this center is a few blocks from his childhood home. that's makes the proximity to his claim to ban all the more stening to the man gathering to say morning prayers >> as an american, new yorker, when i heard it, it's really hard breaking and shocking that someone in new york talks like this >> people are shocked. when i say people, their heart is breaking right now >> reporter: where donald trump grew up is one of the most diverse places in america. 2.3 million people live here and nearly half of the population is foreign born. >> reporter: in a sign of the growing muslim population, there r93 mosques in queens alone. the trump family name here is still visible.
mostly white residents lived in this community when trump was here. nearby store fronts show how much that world has changed as immigrants from bangladesh to india to africa now call this home. one neighbour didn't want to go on camera said that trump hasn't changed with the world. this man has lived here for nearly 50 years. >> reporter: what was your reaction to what he said the other day? reporter: along with condemnation of trump's comments on muslims, there is concern. leaders of this mosque say they recently installed security cameras and with donald trump becoming more of their conversation, they have this message for him >> come visit us and see who we are. you don't know us. how can you make a statement