What’s been happening?


I hope that a lot of Americans are willing and able to do what I did last week. I turned off the television and radio news, saved the interesting parts of the newspaper to review this week, and went fishing.

Surprisingly, my actions had no discernible impact on world events. The butterfly effect may be true for weather, but not for my contribution to the overall clamor.

Here’s some of the stuff I saved, in no order other than the random pattern in which I pick the articles up.

Peter Loftus, writing in The Wall Street Journal for Wednesday May 11th, reported that Cigna and CVS Health Corp. (the second-largest PBM in the US) have negotiated outcomes-based pricing for PCSK9 inhibitors, as well as some other costly drugs.

In The New York Times “business day” section of Wednesday, April 27th, Katie Thomas reported that pharmaceutical companies raised list prices for a number of brand-name drugs. You have to read the whole article to learn that overall list prices rose 12%, but actual net prices increased 2.8%, “one of the lowest increases in years.” One expert, commenting on the current pricing issues, said “it’s so complicated, you can’t really unwind it without blowing up the entire health care system.” That was before the outcomes-based pricing negotiations!

Finally, in the next-to-last paragraph, of the 4/27 article, came the real issue. “Specialty drugs…now account for 33% of all drug spending even though they [are used to] treat about 1 to 2% of all patients.”

The New York Times “national” section, Thursday May 12th broke the headline news that more than 1 million people in Texas now have active handgun licenses. The initial application costs $140 and renewal is $70. There is a discount for low-income applicants.

Finally, if you look a little bit deeper into all the fuss about Valeant Pharmaceuticals and the price rises the company has imposed, the two big-issue drugs that reporter Anne Steele mentioned in The Wall Street Journal on May 17th are isoproterenol and nitroprusside. Ms. Steele did not say what percent of the nation’s drug costs are spent on isoproterenol and nitroprusside, but I suspect that handgun license fees in Texas alone might well cover it.

So, here’s an idea. The people who are telling us the news, even the best of them, want to do it in a way that excites us, raises our hackles, and fires us with indignation. Let’s slow down a little. Spend a couple of hours outdoors, with the dog or the kids. And let’s try to put some of these hot-button issues in perspective.