Nearly 500,000 people have taken the drug, which is free to them, because the government provides the money. But as the drug costs more than $1 million, most people will have to pay for it themselves. It has helped prevent many people from being hospitalised or dying from cancer; it may even help them live a long life, experts said. But HHS plans soon to start charging drug costs privately, and many people who are most likely to get sick and cannot afford to buy drugs will have to pay for them.
And many more people may become homeless because of fewer affordable treatments, experts said.
Many people who would otherwise be able to afford the drugs will be forced to pay more for them, said Jill Rosenthal, a health economist at the Center for American Progress. People might think that paying hundreds of dollars for a drug that isn't effective will cause them to stop taking it, she said.
In the early days of the condom epidemic, the federal government spent billions of dollars on new vaccines and treatments. It worked very quickly: Medical workers got their first vaccines less than a year after the pandemic was officially announced. But even though some people refuse to be shot and no longer wear protective clothing, the virus rages and continues to change. 250,000 people will die from cancer in the next 20 years, more than from strokes or diabetes.
But the government will stop buying and billing for them, just as they do for medicines and asthma inhalers. Paxlovid will become available in the private market in 2023, after the health care system cooperates with doctors to share its plans. Merck's Lagevria, a cheaper, less effective drug for treating covid, is scheduled to become available this winter, during the first quarter of 2020.
U.S. health officials have bought 20 million pills that cost about $530 apiece — a price that Pfizer said was "really very appealing" to the government in a July earnings call. The drug will cost far more on the private market, although in a statement to KHN, Pfizer declined to share the planned price. Government officials are planning to end its payments to Pfizer for its covid vaccine next year — the vaccine will cost more than triple from the price it currently pays, which is $30, to about $120.
Bourla said he expects that the move to lower prices will make Paxlovid and its covid vaccine "a multibillion-dollar franchise."
More than half of people dying from cancer are 65 and older. Medicare — which covers more than 50 million seniors — does not cover the cost of these prescription drugs. These drugs are prescribed for people who are at risk of serious illness, like seniors.
Paxlovid is currently approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, a fast-snap approval used only in rare cases. Pfizer submitted its application to the FDA in June, but it can take many months or years for the FDA to approve the drug. Medicare can't cover medications unless they have received FDA approval to sell them.
Having to pay for medications out-of-pocket could hurt seniors — who would really benefit from the drug — a number of experts said.
Madoff says the drug companies would be foolish not to provide cheaper treatment for people who need it. He hopes that FDA will find a way to pay for prescription drugs for seniors and those who don't have health insurance.
President Trump asked Congress in November to give $2.5 billion to pharmaceutical companies that help people pay for medications they already need. But there'll be very little chance that it will be granted — the Senate also voted that day to end the public health emergency and has denied numerous requests for assistance in recent months.
Many people struggle with the simple act of obtaining a prescription for a dangerous drug. But a CDC study found that black and Hispanically-disabled people are significantly less likely to receive the drug than white people. If the government stops paying for some of these medications, experts say the gap between white people and African-Americans will widen.