While the intense focus in Congress last week was the passage of the American Healthcare Act, millions of Americans continue to struggle with the cost of prescription medications. In 2016, 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription because of cost, and a recent poll commissioned by Prescription Justice shows that 75% Americans agree with President Trump that they drug companies are getting away with murder.
Not just individual patients but federal and state governments face an uphill budget battle as well. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veteran's Affairs continue to grapple with dramatic price increases that are crippling their budgets.
Congress has introduced several bills in 2017 to address the crisis of high drug prices. Here’s a summary:
Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (HR 1776/S. 771)
On March 29, S. 771, The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (Act), was introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and fifteen Democratic co-sponsors. A companion bill (HR 1776) was also introduced in the House by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) with four Democratic co-sponsors.
"By introducing the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, Sens. Sanders, Booker and Casey have heeded the call of the millions of Americans who struggle each year with the insurmountable costs of prescription drugs " said Jodi Dart, executive director of Prescription Justice. "This legislation will provide new safety protocols and guidance for American consumers who need access to lower cost medications from safe international pharmacies, beginning with Canada. Last year, 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription because of costs, and a recent poll commissioned by Prescription Justice shows overwhelming majorities support changes that will bring down drug prices. President Trump and members of Congress have an opportunity to make good on their promises to lower drug prices for American consumers. We hope they will have the political will and courage to pass this important legislation."
Prescription Justice is a non-profit organization that brings together doctors, lawyers, public health advocates, and companies dedicated to helping people afford medication. Prescription Justice advocates for legislative and policy reforms to allow personal prescription importation, permitting Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and ending "pay to delay" activities by pharmaceutical companies that prevent lower cost generics from coming to market.
Last week, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) proposed an amendment (S.A. 178) to the Senate Budget Reconciliation bill that would allow individuals, pharmacies and wholesalers to import prescription medications from Canada and other countries with a valid prescription from a U.S. provider.
The amendment took place during a 7-hour vote-a-rama in which more than 150 amendments were considered and voted on for a brief ten minutes.The amendment failed 52-46, with 13 Democrats voting against it. While the measure failed to pass, it surprisingly garnered support from 12 Republicans including Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. It’s worth noting that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) voted against the Dorgan-Snowe importation amendment in 2009, voted yes this time around. (more…)
Value-based pharmaceutical pricing, aimed at achieving better value for pharmaceutical spending and lowering drug prices, while maintaining innovation, is a concept that is gaining traction. In the U.S., prescription drug prices are set by pharmaceutical companies to maximize profits, not based on how well a drug works. In contrast, according to its proponents, value-based drug pricing would mean real health outcomes (not just profits) determine the cost of a drug.
President-Elect Trump’s push for healthcare reform that focuses on free market, consumer-driven initiatives will enhance the political viability of value-based drug pricing. It has more support by the pharmaceutical industry than other popular policies to bring down drug prices, as it’s viewed as more in line with free market principles than other policy proposals, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Last year, U.S. spending on prescription drugs was at a record breaking $425 billion before discounts, and is expected to rise by 22% annually over the next five years, which is 400%, or over $600 billion by 2020. As Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, Americans across the country concerned with the soaring costs of prescription medications, will be looking to President Trump and Congress for solutions to address this national crisis.
President-Elect Trump’s top priority for healthcare reform is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but most Americans are more concerned about prescription drug prices than Obamacare. A recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that nearly 74 percent of Americans agree that a top priority for the next president and Congress should be to ensure that drugs for chronic health conditions are affordable for patients. Additionally, 63 percent believe that the federal government’s top priority should be to lower the cost of prescription medications. Last week, President-Elect Trump released a brief healthcare plan on his transition website. While the newest healthcare plan does not include prescription drug pricing, during the campaign Mr. Trump declared support for allowing Americans to import lower cost medications as part of his 7-point healthcare plan. Although not noted on that plan, President-Elect Trump voiced support for Medicare drug price negotiations during his campaign.
With the presidential election less than two months away, we’re taking some time to see where the candidates stand on prescription drug access and affordability issues – and glance at the national positions of the Democratic and Republican parties. Drug prices are not a good issue for the candidates to ignore, as tens of millions of families across the nation are impacted. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 60% of American adults took at least one prescription drug in 2012, with 15% taking five or more medications. Moreover, the cost of prescription drugs is their number one healthcare concern.
A 2015 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 76 percent of U.S. adults think that the top healthcare priority for the current Administration and Congress should be "making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer, are affordable to those who need them.” Recent headlines, such as those featuring the EpiPen price hike, further highlight the public’s outrage over the soaring cost of prescription medications.