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Readers React: How to make biologic drugs more affordable

To the editor: The Times’ claim that doctors are incentivized to prescribe more expensive drugs under the Medicare Part B payment model, or that we somehow profit from the system, is grossly misleading. (“Why are doctors and health clinics in the business of selling prescription drugs?” editorial, March 14)

In fact, rheumatologists often lose money from prescribing biologics to Medicare patients because the current payment structure does not cover the cost of administering these complex therapies. Many rheumatologists have had to stop providing biologic infusions to Medicare patients as a result.

As is, there are only a handful of similarly priced biologic therapies available under Part B. An additional payment cut would be devastating for Medicare patients suffering from arthritis, lupus and other rheumatic diseases, for whom biologics are a lifeline.

The rheumatology community welcomes healthcare reforms that will make biologics more affordable. However, newly proposed payment tests would do nothing more than restrict our Medicare patients’ ability to access safe and life-changing therapies.

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Gary R. Feldman, MD, Los Angeles

The writer is president of the California Rheumatology Alliance.

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To the editor: The Times says that physicians and clinics should not be profiting from the prescriptions they write. But the illness with drug pricing goes much deeper.

The Food and Drug Administration approved 45 new drugs last year; some of the treatments cost more than $100,000 annually.

Pharmaceutical companies claim that having armies of scientists doing research and coming up with too few products that meet FDA requirements is wasteful. The solution is to get rid of their researchers and buy small companies that have developed a promising drug. Thus, there is little or no risk, and the rewards are high, especially if protected by patents.

Of course, a drug that is life-saving is particularly valuable. The patient or his insurance company is forced to by it.

I call it “ransom drug pricing,” and it is a business model that must be attacked if a real solution is to be found.

Emil Lawton, Sherman Oaks

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