Billionaire Spends $100 Million to Challenge Drug Industry Prices

Energy investor and hedge fund billionaire John D. Arnold, who started off many moons ago with the best stocks for beginners, has recently been taking action to eliminate high costs of prescription drugs. The Texas native has spent over $100 million on health grants health science grants since 2014, with a large portion of these donations dedicated to reducing pharmaceutical costs.

Among the companies Arnold has backed is Civica Rx, a non-profit generic drug company created earlier this year by several hospital groups to combat price gouging by drug companies and material shortages.

Arnold has reportedly donated at least $1 million to this pharmaceutical startup company, with Civica Rx’s first drug launch potentially releasing in 2019. Civica Rx is an independent drug company that promises clients transparent pricing with no rebates commonly seen in the pharmaceutical industry. The company plans to begin their program by supplying 14 drugs that are under short supply and commonly used in the hospital setting.

On top of this donation to Civica Rx, Arnold has also given $5.7 million to Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge Inc., an organization dedicated to introducing more generic products to the pharmaceutical market. The company functions to “files legal challenges to the validity of certain U.S. drug patents, to clear the way for lower-cost generics,” as per the Wall Street Journal.

Arnold has also funded research in drug marketing, looking into relationships between packaging of pharmaceuticals and pricing. This research led to Medicare passing new restrictions that were put into effect in 2017, requiring drug manufacturers to provide justifications for large increases in their medication prices.

A Boston-based Institute for Clinical and Economic Review received $19 million from Arnold to research how accurately drug prices reflect their health benefits. Examples of this Institute’s challenging of drug pricing include rejection of “abuse-deterrent” features, such as capsules being charged higher because they are resistant to being crushed into powder. This past year the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ pharmacy benefit program integrated this Institutes reports into price negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. Several insurers have integrated the Institutes data into contracts as well, and CVS has announced that its clients will be offered the option to opt out of payment for certain drugs that exceed the Institute’s cost analysis threshold.

Pharmaceutical companies have made attempts to counter the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, funding groups such as Patients Rising. This group has received $435,000 from companies such as Amgen Inc. and Celgene Corp. in the last year and claims that the Institute’s methods and reports are flawed. They argue that these reports lead to insurers restricting patients’ access to prescriptions due to pricing. Steven Parson, head of the Institute, counters by stating that his organizations actions aim to ensure patients receive treatment at fair prices rather than to determine whether some patients are too expensive to treat.

“Everybody thinks that the pharma industry is abusive in their tactics and doesn’t price drugs fairly.”
-John D. Arnold

Valued at $3.3 billion, Arnold poses a powerful new opponent to drug manufacturers, with his position as a critic of the industry ramping up in the past year with extensive funding.

Sources: Wall Street Journal