A generic name for the same rip-off
The New York Times
Drugmaker Eli Lilly bought flattering headlines by announcing that it would sell a generic version of its top-selling insulin brand, Humalog, at the discounted price of $137.35, said Elisabeth Rosenthal. Perhaps it is a “sign of how desperate Americans are for something—anything—to counteract the escalating price of drugs” that Lilly’s “seemingly beneficent gesture” was greeted with praise. It should have been a collective “Huh?” In Germany, a vial of Humalog sells for $55. But in the U.S., which doesn’t set drug prices, Lilly raised Humalog’s cost from $35 in 2001 to $275. The new lower-cost option is what’s known as an “authorized generic.” It’s exactly the same as the other version, only the name and packaging are different. Pharmaceutical companies do this to discourage knockoffs by other companies once the original patent has expired, and to avoid ceding more profits to middlemen who negotiate discounts to buy the brand-name drugs for insurers and hospitals. But “imagine if Apple sold a $500 phone for $250 if it was called, say, a yPhone” and didn’t come wrapped in fancy packaging. If the cost of electricity or gas went up 600 percent in 15 years, we would regard it as price gouging. Yet somehow, according to the “bizarre logic of the pharmaceutical industry,” it’s business as usual.