What do PBJs, PBM “black boxes,” industry friendly advisory panels, and CME (aka doctor training programs) all share in common? They’re blamed for contributing to Big Pharma’s skyrocketing prices—and it’s worth diving into recent reports on these disparate causes to understand how Americans got into such dire shape with the costs of their medical care.
Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a little math. A jar of generic peanut butter might cost a bit more than a buck and change, with a jar of strawberry jam running about the same. Now if you buy them in a combined product—Smucker’s version is called Goober—it sets you back $3.49.
This pricing comes from Marshall Allen, a reporter for Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative news site. He goes on to compare PBJs with a medication his orthopedist recently prescribed for him: Horizon Pharma’s Vimovo. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Allen points out it also is little more than a combination of the pain-reliever naproxen (best known in the branded version Aleve) and the upset-stomach remedy esomeprazole magnesium (best known as Nexium). He could walk into a drug store and buy a month’s supply of both for $40.