Americans are still justifiably outraged by Wall Street bankers and other executives cashing out big bonuses after lining up for federal bailouts.
But bankers weren?t alone in capitalizing on the times.
The nation?s pharmaceutical companies jacked up prices even as they professed support for health care reform plans that promise savings on prescription medicine for consumers.
Wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs have gone up 9 percent over the past year, according to a report Nov. 16 in the New York Times. For the drugs most commonly used by Medicare patients, the increase was slightly higher, 9.3 percent.
During the same period, consumer prices overall fell 1.3 percent.
The price hikes more than offset savings promised five months ago by the pharmaceutical industry. In June, industry officials told the White House they would cut drug costs by $8 billion a year as part of a health care reform plan. The head of the industry trade association, a former Louisiana congressman named Billy Tauzin, said it could give no more, citing declining sales.
This year?s wholesale price hikes add up to $10 billion in added revenue, according to a researcher at the University of Minnesota who believes the industry is trying to run up base prices before a reform plan is adopted.
A Harvard health economist said he found a similar pattern when Congress added drug benefits to Medicare, which took effect in 2006.
?They try to maximize their profits,? Joseph Newhouse of Harvard told the Times.
As for those declining sales that prevented the industry from offering bigger price cuts, never mind. More recent forecasts show a year-over-year increase, with consumers on track to spend more than $300 billion ? nearly quadruple the state of California?s annual budget ? on medicine this year.
So what does the pharmaceutical industry have to say?
An industry spokesman dismissed the price data, suggesting that people should consider the drugs, higher prices and all, a form of savings. After all, said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, that costly medicine might keep you out of an even-costlier hospital.
If you buy that one, he?s earned his bonus.