When the topic of drug prices comes up, as it so often does in this post-Martin Shkreli world, pharma is always prepared with a rebuttal.
First, it was that drugs account for only 10 (or more recently, closer to 15) percent of overall health-care spending.
Then, that it's the middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers, who drive up drug prices.
Now, the pharmaceutical industry's counter to criticisms of its prices: that use of medicines lowers other health-care spending.
"Any attempts to lower health-care costs are going to have to involve, my belief is, using medicines to ensure adherence, to ensure the appropriate management of diseases," Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read told analysts on the company's earnings call Tuesday.
"This is the paradox of trying to squeeze drug costs," Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks added in an interview with "Squawk Box" Wednesday morning. "Perhaps we might inflate other medical costs."
Ricks said Lilly's medical inflation is lower than that of the U.S. on the whole, "and part of the reason for that is how we've designed our programs."
Specifically, "we use drugs more often" — double the spending on medications as a percent of all health-care costs, Ricks said, compared with the U.S. figure.
Prescription drugs accounted for about 17 percent of all Medicare spending in 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.