New ‘refund’ scheme just another ploy to sell costly drugs

It’s the latest and greatest marketing scheme in Big Pharma land.

Drug-industry profiteers have figured out a way to get more doctors to write loads of prescriptions for outrageously priced and risky drugs — and that’s to offer a refund if the products “don’t work.”

On its face, that sounds like a big show of confidence in how effective these expensive meds are.

But nothing Big Pharma does, in the end, benefits anyone but Big Pharma.

And this plan to up sales of its obscenely priced meds is no different.

‘A bad deal’

It’s quite obvious by now that the costs of prescription drugs are off the charts.

Just 30 days’ worth of a med for hepatitis C goes for close to $80,000. If you have a rare genetic disorder that can cause your throat to swell shut, a drug for that will run around $51,000. Orkambi, used to treat patients with cystic fibrosis, has a price tag of $41,000.

Even the EpiPen, a staple in ERs, ambulances, and many homes, has seen its price jump to over $600 for a two-pack.

And that’s just the beginning, because Big Pharma appears to be slapping Rodeo Drive prices on all of its new products for conditions ranging from cancer to high cholesterol.

Insurers, however, have been putting these potential blockbusters on ice by refusing to cover the cost of many of them.

This has been the case for Amgen’s Repatha and Sanofi’s Praulent, twice-monthly injections for lowering cholesterol that both run around $14,000 a year.

Of course, as an eAlert reader, you’ve known since the get-go that taking these meds, called PCSK9 inhibitors, is about as good for you as hitting your head against the wall.

The label for Repatha, for example, notes that close to 2,000 patients in trials for the drug had cholesterol numbers that were below 25 mg/dL.


Cholesterol levels that tank anywhere in the double digits can be seriously bad news for your heart and your brain.

Amgen even admits that the long-term effects of those kinds of super-low numbers “are unknown.”

And interestingly enough, Amgen is the first drugmaker to sign a contract with an insurer stating that if a patient has a heart attack or stroke after taking Repatha for at least six months, the insurance company will get its money back.

But what about the potential of “neurocognitive adverse events?” (Even the FDA warned about those before it approved the med!) What about diabetes, allergic reactions to the drug, or any of the other possible adverse effects of those super-low cholesterol numbers?

Those little issues don’t appear to be covered in this refund ruse.

But while Amgen is tooting its horn over the refund offer by saying that it wants to “put skin in the game,” not everyone is impressed. David Mitchell, president of Patients for Affordable Drugs, has called it “a bad deal, especially if I’m dead.”

He added that this arrangement won’t benefit patients — just drugmakers, who will get to claim they’re doing something about the cost of drugs yet, as Mitchell says, “maintain their high prices.”

Cost aside, if you suffer any side effects from Repatha, tough luck!

The bottom line here is that taking a risky drug is nothing like buying a defective toaster that you can return to Wal-Mart for a refund.

And this newest “money-back guarantee” scheme to meet sales quotas shouldn’t make you think for one minute that these expensive meds are one bit safer.

Because after all this financial wheeling and dealing is done, the person taking a drug is the only one who has any real skin in the game.

“Amgen offers cholesterol drug with first refund guarantee for heart attack or stroke sufferers” Martha Bebinger, May 3, 2017, WBUR,