Introduction of Drug Pricing Plan Offers Hope for Resolving Increasing Prescription Drug Prices

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ACP supports the provisions of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan, which empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices with manufacturers

Oct. 4, 2019 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians is encouraged that Congress seems poised to finally take major action regarding the rising cost of prescription drugs in the United States.

In late September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a Democratic plan to lower drug prices known as The Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The proposal calls for the federal government to negotiate prices for up to 250 of the most expensive drugs, including insulin. If drug makers refuse to negotiate, they could be charged a steep noncompliance fee. Other provisions of the plan include a cap of $2,000 on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries and the disabled.

“We are generally encouraged by the plan and its provisions to empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate with manufacturers for the price of prescription drugs in the Medicare program,” said Hilary Daniel, an ACP health policy associate. “ACP has a longstanding policy supporting the ability of Medicare to leverage its purchasing power to negotiate with prescription drug manufacturers on price.”

Daniel noted the cost of prescription drugs is a serious concern for ACP and its members. The majority of Americans are also concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. A February 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll showed about one in four of those taking prescription drugs had difficulty affording their medications. Nearly 30 percent do not take their medications as prescribed because of high drug prices.

“Lack of medication adherence such as skipping doses, taking fewer doses, or delaying filling a prescription can lead to more serious illnesses with costlier health care interventions,” Daniel added.

Although the fate of the plan is uncertain, there is bipartisan support for tackling the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs.

“ACP has extensive policy on lowering the price of drugs and costs to patients through transparency, competition, accountability, and addressing anti-competitive behaviors in the prescription drug marketplace,” Daniel said. “Congress should act to pass policy reforms and legislation such as the Prescription Drug STAR Act to improve transparency and the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act to improve competition in the generic drug market, among others.”

ACP is part of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, which issued this statement by its executive director, Lauren Aronson: “The plan unveiled by leaders in the House reflects several key reforms that have won bipartisan support, including measures to reform the Medicare Part D program by giving Big Pharma more skin in the game, capping out-of-pocket costs and keeping price hikes below the rate of inflation ... The introduction of this plan builds on unprecedented momentum to hold Big Pharma accountable as leaders in both parties and in both chambers put forward and advance solutions to crack down on the industry's anti-competitive tactics and price-gouging.”

House Speaker Pelosi told reporters that the prescription drug plan is still in the development process and more details will come. According to National Public Radio, Democrats hope Congress will pass legislation on prescription drug pricing by the end of the year.

“Although we are not clear on a timeline moving forward from here,” Daniel said, “there is still quite a bit of interest by members of Congress and the White House to pass and implement some type of drug pricing legislation.”

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