In The Continued War on Big Pharma Price Gouging, Century Hearing Aids Picks Up The Torch
Century Hearing Aids, has opened up a new battlefront in the war activists have been waging against Big Pharma.
By challenging the status quo that allows deeply entrenched legacy companies to price goods at will, they’ve succeeded in unseating corporate monoliths such as Mylan Inc and Martin Shkrelli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals. The most recent clash has come over hearing aids.
The hearing aid industry is in a state of crisis. Only 20 per cent of the 30 million Americans suffering from hearing loss use hearing aids, experts say. Financial difficulty is the most oft cited barrier for people in need.
How did this state of affairs come about and what is being done about it?
In the last fifteen years six major international companies have accounted for 98 per cent of global sales. These companies have traditionally reached consumers through the use of audiologist-vendors.
According to a 2013 study by The Hearing Review, 20 per cent of vendors offered only one brand of hearing aid, and sixty per cent offered in between two to four. The lack of options for consumers has removed the healthy competition that is required to bring prices down to their true market rate.
The average price of $2,400 that consumers paid per ear for hearing aids in the year 2013 is bloated by markups on the wholesale and retail ends.
Competition is the backbone of our economic system. Without it, companies have a chokehold on the supply of a product and are free to dictate pricing. When this occurs the consumer gets squeezed.
In response to this trend, online retailer Century Hearing Aids has stepped in with a real alternative. By preprogramming hearing aids to settings that work for 98% of customers, they have eliminated the need for the follow up visits that make hearing aids financially out of reach for those in need and cut prices by fifty to seventy-five percent. Customer welcome the ability to purchase low cost hearing aids for cheaper prices than Starkey and other major brands, while not compromising on quality.
- Signs Of A Consumer Revolution
The recent Mylan Inc’s Epi-Pen price hike a telling indicator of a brewing unrest. The way the market has taken back control from such a powerful conglomerate is the stuff revolutions are made of. Over a period of seven years, Mylan raised the price of a two pack of this life saving drug from $100 to $608.
The FDA’s lengthy and expensive drug approval process, a system that can in some cases enable a single big pharmaceutical company be the only legal producer of a vital life-saving drug, made it possible for Mylan to hold a monopoly on the drug.
What happened next is the truly astounding part. Mylan’s stock tanked as investors questioned the ethics of the company’s actions. The market reacted to the blatant disregard for consumers in pursuit of shareholder profits.
In late 2015, Imprimis CEO Mark Baum reacted Martin Shkreli’s price hike of the drug Daraprim by creating a generic version to be sold for $1. When Shkreli bought the rights to Daraprim, a drug used to treat an infection especially severe for those affected by the AIDS virus, he raised the price per pill from $13.50 to $750. A move that earned him the moniker: “most hated man in America”.
“I have a special affection for this patient population,” Baum said. “I’ve worked with this patient population for a long, long time…When this guy [Shkreli] did this, I said, ‘Someone’s got to stand up’ and we decided we were going to take a stand.”
A revolution is brewing. One that is rapidly changing the face of the American marketplace from one controlled by few to one run by and servicing the many.