In the “Dirty Money” series on Netflix, the “Drug Short” episode (1) helped me understand some of the economic forces that may have influenced T3 / Liothyronine price hikes in the UK.
It makes me concerned about the future of T3 pricing in Canada too.
This episode focuses on Valeant, a Canadian pharmaceutical company that rose high in the stock market and then crashed.
Valeant made their money by buying out other pharmaceutical companies, gutting their research and development arm, and increasing prices on drugs, especially those that had small market share.
These “orphan” drugs become transformed into cash cows simply by milking the few patients of more of their money.
This policy pleased the shareholders but at the expense of patients and insurance companies who paid the price.
In 2018 Valeant changed their name to Bausch after their crash, so they still survive. (2)
As I learned about Valeant I could not help but think of another Canadian company — Concordia, now renamed Advanz Pharma (3)
Canada’s Concordia (Advanz), based in Mississauga, Ontario, was responsible for the incredible 6000% UK price hike of the thyroid medication synthetic T3 (Liothyronine) over ten years (4).
What is it about Canada that makes it conducive to hosting price-gouging pharmaceutical companies like Valeant / Bausch and Concordia / Advanz?
That is a question I raise but I have no answer for, yet.
This episode is called “drug short” because it features “short – sellers” on the stock market who do research on upcoming corporate failures and bet that a stock price will crash.
Several short-sellers saw Valeant’s fall coming and were able to profit off their crash.
However, it appears that drug companies are still imitating Valeant’s srategies.
The episode features a patient with a rare disorder whose medication suddenly became unaffordable. Such patients are the ones who suffer the most, just like patients in the UK who require T3 medication.
Prices did not decrease substantially even after Valeant crashed. Similarly, UK prices have not substantially decreased after other brands of T3 came on the market.
What can societies do to stop this economically motivated medical injustice?
See the Dirty Money Netflix 2018 trailer video (for the whole series, not just the Drug Short episode) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6IBFV93pDU
1) IMDB Dirty Money (2018) Drug Short https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7909184/
2) CTV News May 8, 2018 “Valeant moving on from troubled past with name change to Bausch Health Companies” https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/valeant-moving-on-from-troubled-past-with-name-change-to-bausch-health-companies-1.3919903
3) Canada NewsWire, Oct. 9, 2018 “CXR Intention To Rebrand As ADVANZ PHARMA Following Its Successful Recapitalization”
4) The Guardian, Nov. 21, 2017: “Drug firm Concordia overcharged NHS with 6,000% price rise, says watchdog. CMA accuses Canadian firm of overcharging by £100m on thyroid drug with price per pack rising from £4.46 to £258 in 10 years” https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/21/drug-firm-concordia-overcharged-nhs-with-6000-price-rise