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Latest One-Sided CNBC Interview Repeats Falsehoods, Offers Misleading Statistics

August 23, 2016
I was disappointed by CNBC’s one-sided reporting in an article that repeated numerous falsehoods and misleading statistics that have been previously debunked, apparently based on a single interview with Dr. Kenneth Davis, the President and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. The insurance industry and its allies continue to use the biopharmaceutical industry as a scapegoat for their ever-increasing insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. It’s time to set the record straight.

First, let’s put drug prices in context. In 2015, IMS Health found that the net prices for branded medicines increased just 2.8 percent, not the percentage cited in the story. And a recent study from Avalere showed that it is payments to doctors and hospitals like Mt. Sinai – and not drug costs – that are driving the largest percentages. The contrary myths about unsustainable drug costs have gotten so pervasive – in part due to articles like this - that PwC even called these concerns “false alarms.”

CNBC and Davis attempt to use drugs that cure hepatitis C as examples of what Davis describes as “prohibitive” prices. Dr. Davis and CNBC also fail to note that there are now multiple hepatitis C drugs available, so discounts are substantial. But to my point about value: Not only do these drugs cure a disease that affects millions of Americans, they will help prevent hundreds of thousands of dollars in per-patient liver transplants, hospital stays and doctor visits. These innovations should be celebrated, not villainized.

The real question is whether the patients that desperately need cures are able to get access. And far too often, thanks to the actions of insurers, the answer is no.

Across the country, states have investigated insurers who refused to cover these hepatitis drugs until patients’ conditions were deteriorating. Several Harvard studies also examined this trend among HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C patients and came to the conclusion that insurers’ practices amounted to discrimination.

It’s no wonder why these pervasive myths about drug prices take hold or that the public isn’t aware of these discriminatory tactics by insurers, after interviews like this. Despite all of the falsehoods, the biopharmaceutical sector ranks 1st in R&D reinvestment and 45th in return on equity.

It’s disappointing that CNBC didn’t attempt to present both sides of this critical issue. It is a disservice to the public and only makes it harder for all stakeholders and policymakers to come together and fix our broken healthcare system.