A billionaire pledges to fight high drug prices, and the industry Is rattled

Billionaire John D. Arnold is spending part of his fortune to campaign against high drug prices in the United States. Arnold has spent more than $100 million in grants related to health care since 2014. Up to $5.7 million is pledged to Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge Inc., which files legal challenges to the validity of certain U.S. drug patents, to clear the way for lower-cost generics. He funded research about the relationship between pharmaceutical packaging and drug costs, leading Medicare to pass new rules that took effect in 2017. The state of California, advised by an Arnold-funded group, passed a law in 2017 requiring drugmakers to justify steep price increases. Some pharmaceutical executives take issue with Arnold's findings and approach. "My complaint with them is they seem to be positioning it as, 'We're pointing fingers at drugs companies, and we're going to do everything possible to make them look bad without having a balanced view,'" said Ron Cohen, CEO of drugmaker Acorda Therapeutics. In a September tweet criticizing Arnold's comments about "broken pharma pricing," Cohen said pricing is "far more complicated, with far more competing interests, than your outlook acknowledges." Arnold contends there are no meaningful checks on the drug industry's power to set prices. Health spending "is large and growing, and the trend line is going in the wrong direction in terms of financial sustainability," he said.

Read More