What We’re Reading: Drugmakers Accused of Price Inflation; Alcohol-Related Deaths Rise; Medicaid Enrollment Jumps

October 1, 2020

A House panel found pharmaceutical companies exponentially increased drug prices to boost profits; CDC data show an increase in alcohol-related deaths, especially among women; 4 million more Americans enroll in Medicaid.

Drugmakers Hiked Prices to Increase Profits

The Democrat-led House Oversight and Reform Committee found major pharmaceutical companies increased drug prices exponentially to boost profits and executives’ bonuses, taking advantage of Medicare rules, Politico reports. The announcement comes after an 18-month investigation into the pricing practices of 12 drug companies, including Bristol Myers Squibb and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The report found Celgene, which was acquired by Bristol in 2019, raised the price of Revlimid, a cancer medication, 22 times since it launched in 2005. The raises ultimately tripled the drug’s price, while reports show in 2014, increases were ordered so the company could meet its quarterly revenue targets.

CDC Data Show Spike in Alcohol-Related Deaths Prior to Pandemic

New CDC data show that alcohol-induced deaths among adults aged 25 and over increased 43% between 2006 and 2018, compared with stable rates seen from 2000 to 2006. Analyses found that between 2000 and 2018, alcohol-induced deaths increased at a greater rate for both males and females residing in rural areas of the country compared with urban areas. Deadly conditions cited by the CDC include those associated with muscle, liver, heart, or brain damage due to alcohol consumption. Since 2000, the number of women dying from these complications has grown by 76%. However, the data does not account for 2020 rates, and more recent analyses show alcohol consumption rose sharply during the pandemic.

Medicaid Enrollment Grows by 4 Million

Between February and June of 2020, 4 million more Americans enrolled in Medicaid, marking an increase of 5.7%, after a slow decline in enrollment began in mid-2017, CNN reports. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused millions of individuals to lose their jobs and in some cases, their health insurance. Federal data showed over 2.4 million adults enrolled in the program in the Spring of 2020, in addition to 1.4 million children who enrolled in either Medicaid of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The data includes statistics from all states except Arizona and Washington DC.