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Monday, September 24, 2018
“As drug giant Pfizer Inc. hiked the price of dozens of drugs in 2017, it also jacked up the compensation of CEO Ian Read by 61 percent, putting his total compensation at $27.9 million, according to financial filings reported by Bloomberg.
“Pfizer’s board reportedly approved the compensation boost because they saw it as a ‘compelling incentive’ to keep Read from retiring… As part of the deal, Read has to stay on through at least next March and is barred from working with a competitor for a minimum of two years after that.
“According to Bloomberg, Read’s compensation included in part a salary of $1.96 million, a $2.6 million bonus, $13.1 million in equity awards linked to financial goals and stock price, as well as an $8 million special equity award that will vest if the company’s average stock return goes above 25 percent for 30 consecutive trading days before the end of 2022. In 2016, Read’s compensation totaled $17.3 million.
“The 61 percent raise comes after a string of separate reports noting drug price increases by Pfizer. In January, FiercePharma reported an analysis finding that Pfizer implemented 116 price hikes just between this past December 15 and January 3 of this year. The list price increases ranged from 3 percent to 9.46 percent. The analysts noted that Pfizer increased the price of 20 drugs by 9.44 percent. Those included Viagra, Pristiq, Lipitor, and Zoloft, which are available as generics, as well as Chantix.
“Additionally, Pfizer had increased the prices of 91 drugs by an average of 20 percent in just the first half of 2017, according to data first reported by Financial Times. That included two waves of price hikes, one in January and the other on June 1.
“That echoes the pattern seen in 2016, 2015, and 2014, according to a report by STAT. In June of 2016, Pfizer raised the list prices of its medicines by an average of 8.8 percent. That followed an average 10.4 percent raise in list prices in January of that year.
“In response to the price hikes reported earlier this year, a Pfizer spokesperson told FiercePharma that the company ‘takes a measured and responsible approach to pricing.’ The spokesperson added that Pfizer provides assistance programs to some eligible patients with financial hardships. However, such discount and assistance programs don't spare insurance companies from picking up larger tabs, which contributes to higher premiums and system-wide costs…" (Pfizer CEO gets 61% pay raise—to $27.9 million—as drug prices continue to climb).
Sunday, September 23, 2018
“A pharmaceutical company executive defended his company's recent 400% drug price increase, telling the Financial Times that his company had a ‘moral requirement to sell the product at the highest price.’ The head of the US Food and Drug Administration blasted the executive in a response on Twitter.
“Nirmal Mulye, founder and president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, commented in a story Tuesday [Sept. 11] about the decision to raise the price of an antibiotic mixture called nitrofurantoin from about $500 per bottle to more than $2,300. The drug is listed by the World Health Organization as an ‘essential’ medicine for lower urinary tract infections.’I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can,’ Mulye told the Financial Times, ‘to sell the product for the highest price.’
“The Financial Times said Mulye compared his decision to increase the price to that of an art dealer who sells ‘a painting for half a billion dollars’ and said he was in ‘this business to make money.’
“According to the Financial Times, the executive defended ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli, who was once dubbed the ‘most hated man in America’ after his company raised the price of an AIDS drug by more than 5,000% in 2015. Shkreli was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud due to mismanaging money at his hedge funds.
Bottom of Form
“‘I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,’ Mulye was quoted as saying.
“FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued a sharp rebuke of the CEO on Twitter shortly after the story published, saying ‘there's no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients.’
“In comments to CNN on Wednesday, Mulye said he was not quoted accurately. ‘The word morality was used in the conversation, but not in the context of price increases,’ he said. ‘I said I have to raise prices when I can -- how to get the best prices for my products, so that I can survive,’ Mulye told CNN. ‘It is about the survival of the business. It has nothing to do with morality.’ The Financial Times said Wednesday it sticks by its story.
“In his remarks to CNN, Mulye went on to say he ‘nearly went bankrupt’ twice and that he lost money after buying a plant in Ohio, which he said employs just under 100 people. ‘Is it moral for me to lose money?’ Mulye asked. ‘If I don't make money, then I can't create those jobs. And where does the money go when I make it? It goes back into research and hiring new people right here in the US.’
“He said the real villain is the ‘incompetent and corrupt’ FDA, which he said has placed regulatory burdens on the industry, leading to higher drug prices. He said he fired off an email to Gottlieb after his tweet: ‘Basically, I said in a nutshell that he does not have the necessary competence to comment on the morality of drug price increases, which is a complex subject. Honestly, Gottlieb should stay away from tweet, and he needs to stay in his office and listen to people like me and reform the agency,’ Mulye said.
“Mulye noted his drug is the generic version and less expensive than the branded version, listed at $2,800. ‘I'm being vilified for no good reason,’ he said. ‘It shows that the highest office at the FDA and the media doesn't understand how the drug pricing works.’
“The Trump administration has pledged to tackle the soaring costs of drug prices, with the president unveiling a plan in May to increase competition, reduce regulations and change incentives for players in the pharmaceutical industry. When he announced his plan, President Donald Trump slammed drug makers, health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and others for profiting off American patients. ’The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American patients,’ Trump said.” [If Trump were serious about lowering drug prices he'd have to take on the U.S. drug manufacturers, which he hasn't, rather than blaming foreign drug manufacturers].
Friday, September 21, 2018
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Monday, September 17, 2018
"A new research report finds that the retirement savings levels of working age Americans remain deeply inadequate despite economic recovery"-National Institute on Retirement Security
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 – A new research report finds that the retirement savings levels of working age Americans remain deeply inadequate despite economic recovery. An analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that the median retirement account balance among all working individuals is $0.00. The data also indicate that 57 percent (more than 100 million) of working age individuals do not own any retirement account assets in an employer-sponsored 401(k)-type plan, individual account or pension.
The analysis finds that overall, four out of five working Americans have less than one year’s income saved in retirement accounts. Also, 77 percent of Americans fall short of conservative retirement savings targets for their age based on working until age 67, even after counting an individual’s entire net worth – a generous measure of retirement savings. Moreover, a large majority of working Americans cannot meet even a substantially reduced savings target.
Growing income inequality widens the gap in retirement account ownership. Workers in the top income quartile are five times more likely to have retirement accounts than workers in the lowest income quartile. And those Individuals with retirement accounts have, on average, more than three times the annual income of individuals who do not own retirement accounts.
These findings are contained in a new research report, Retirement in America | Out of Reach for Most Americans? The report is issued today by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), and is available here.
A webinar to review the findings is scheduled for Thursday, September 20, 2018, at 11 AM ET. Register here.
“The facts and data are clear. Retirement is in peril for most working-class Americans,” says Diane Oakley, report author and NIRS executive director. “When all working individuals are considered — not just the minority with retirement accounts — the typical working American has zero, zilch, nothing saved for retirement.”
Oakley added, “What this report means is that the American dream of a modest retirement after a lifetime of work now is a middle-class nightmare. Even among workers who have accumulated savings in retirement accounts, the typical worker had a low account balance of $40,000. This is far off-track from the savings levels Americans need if they hope to sustain their standard of living in retirement.”
The retirement savings shortfall can be attributed to a multitude of factors and a breakdown of the nation’s retirement infrastructure. There is a massive retirement plan coverage gap among American workers, fewer workers have stable and secure pensions, 401(k)-style defined contribution (DC) individual accounts provide less savings and protection, and jumps in Social Security retirement age translate into lower retirement income.
The catastrophic financial crisis of 2008 exposed the vulnerability of the DC-centered retirement system. Many Americans saw the value of their retirement plans plummet when the financial markets crashed and destroyed trillions of dollars of household wealth. Asset values in Americans’ retirement accounts fell from $9.3 trillion at the end of 2007 to $7.2 trillion at the end of 2008. The economic downturn also triggered a decline in total contributions to DC retirement accounts as many employers stopped matching employee contributions for a time pushing total contributions below 2008 levels. Since then, the combined value of 401(k)-type accounts and IRAs reached $16.9 trillion by the end of 2017. Unfortunately, this increase in total retirement account assets did not translate to improved retirement security for the majority of American workers and their families who have nothing saved.
In this uncertain environment, Americans face an ongoing quandary: how much income will they need to retire, and can they ever save enough? To maintain their standard of living in retirement, the typical working American needs to replace roughly 85 percent of pre-retirement income. Social Security, under the current benefit formula, provides a replacement rate of roughly 35 percent for a typical worker. This leaves a retirement income gap equal to 50 percent of pre-retirement earnings that must be filled through other means.
The key findings of this report are as follows:
· Account ownership rates are closely correlated with income and wealth. More than 100 million working age individuals (57 percent) do not own any retirement account assets, whether in an employer-sponsored 401(k)-type plan or an IRA nor are they covered by defined benefit (DB) pensions. Individuals who do own retirement accounts have, on average, more than three times the annual income of individuals who do not own retirement accounts.
· The typical working age American has no retirement savings. When all working individuals are included—not just individuals with retirement accounts—the median retirement account balance is $0 among all working individuals. Even among workers who have accumulated savings in retirement accounts, the typical worker had a modest account balance of $40,000. Furthermore, some 68 percent of individuals age 55 to 64 have retirement savings equal to less than one times their annual income, which is far below what they will need to maintain their standard of living over their expected years in retirement.
· Three-fourths (77 percent) of Americans fall short of conservative retirement savings targets for their age and income based on working until age 67 even after counting an individual’s entire net worth—a generous measure of retirement savings. Due to a long-term trend toward income and wealth inequality that only worsened during the recent economic recovery, a large majority of the bottom half of Americans cannot meet even a substantially reduced savings target.
· Public policy can play a critical role in putting all Americans on a path toward a secure retirement by strengthening Social Security, expanding access to low-cost, high quality retirement plans, and helping low-income workers and families save. Social Security, the primary underpinning of retirement income security, could be strengthened to stabilize system financing and enhance benefits for vulnerable populations. States across the nation are taking key steps to expand access to workplace retirement savings, with enrollment in state-based programs this year starting in Oregon, Washington and Illinois. Other proposals to expand coverage are on the national agenda but universal retirement plan coverage has not become a national priority. Finally, expanding the Saver’s Credit and making it refundable could help boost the retirement savings of lower-income families.
To understand the challenges working-class individuals face in retirement, the report provides an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data released in 2016 and 2017. The study analyzes workplace retirement plan coverage, retirement account ownership, and retirement savings as a percentage of income, and estimates the share of workers that meet financial industry recommended benchmarks for retirement savings.
The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers, and the economy through national research and education programs. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS has a diverse membership of organizations interested in retirement including financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers. More information is available at www.nirsonline.org
Contact: Kelly Kenneally 202.457.8190 o 202.256.1445 m email@example.com
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
“Music makes everything better! It can relieve pain, reduces stress, makes you work harder, and helps you relax. Music is one of life's most beautiful gifts. To quote Jimi Hendrix: ‘Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.’
“One of the best ways to capture the benefits of music is through singing. It allows you to truly feel the song with your mind, body, and soul. Research has shown singing can improve your health, increase happiness and even extend your life! No matter who or where you are, you can reap the many benefits of music by singing along to some tunes! Sing wherever you are.
“Singing is even good for your brain and can make you feel high. It releases endorphins, hormones that produce pleasure, simultaneous to oxytocin, hormones that diminish stress and anxiety. Oxytocin also decreases feelings of depression and loneliness, making us feel more connected with the world, which is precisely why singing with other people feels even better!
“A study done by scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found people who sing together become so connected they exhibit synchronized heartbeats. Anyone who has ever been in choir can attest to this. When the magical sound of several people singing together is created, there is an unexplained unity between those singing.
“Singing also requires deep concentration on breathing, which works major muscle groups in the upper body and is great for both lung and cardiovascular health. Björn Vickhoff, the leader of the study, stated: ‘Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these. It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.’ Therefore, one could make the argument that singing is better for you than doing yoga! Research has also proven that singing produces lower levels of cortisol, reducing stress while improving our immune systems.
“Lastly, a joint study from Harvard and Yale Universities in 2008 found singing increases life expectancy. If you want to feel less stressed, become happier, and live longer: Start singing!” (New research says singing daily reduces stress, clears sinuses, and helps you live longer).