Sticking to the Facts on Drug Pricing

BIOtech Now
Brian Newell

Former President John Adams is known to have once said, “Facts are stubborn things,” and that’s certainly true when it comes to the drug cost debate.

We know for a fact prescription drug spending continues to be remarkably stable, representing roughly the same share of total health care spending today (about 14 percent) as it did in 1960.

We know for a fact the United States is the leader in biopharmaceutical innovation, and that this innovation is extremely risky, costly, and time-consuming.

And we know for a fact that if you follow the pill from lab to patient, there are a number of middlemen along the way who wield significant control over the final cost patients pay for prescription drugs.

These are just a few of the drug cost facts we know. Steven Tepp, founder and president of the intellectual property consulting firm Sentinel Worldwide, explained in Morning Consult why our country leads the world in biotech innovation:

“The truth is that innovation in medical treatments is expensive and costs are increased by regulatory compliance for market approval.

“The United States, nearly unique in the world, allows free market forces to determine pricing. We tend to pay more, but we have the most innovation and the best access to new medicines.”

That’s why patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other diseases are experiencing a better quality of life today than ever before. Yet despite these and other facts, there are those who want to radically alter our nation’s biopharmaceutical ecosystem.

One proposal in particular that attracts a lot of attention would allow drugs to be imported to the U.S. from foreign countries. Joseph Gaspero, CEO and co-founder of the Center for Healthcare Innovation, wrote in the Illinois State Journal-Register why this idea would put patients at risk:

“Drug importation seriously would threaten patient safety. The [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has determined that ‘many drugs sold in foreign countries/areas as “foreign versions” of approved prescription drugs sold in the United States are often of unknown quality … and may pose a risk to the patient’s health.’

“A 2003 study of a foreign shipment of drugs confirmed that 88 percent of the shipments contained drugs that didn’t meet the FDA’s safety standards.

“Rather than talking up imports, the administration should advocate for policies that truly lower drug costs without hurting American workers and patients.”

Biotech leaders agree, which is why they have united behind commonsense proposals that would fix flaws in the currently system while building upon what works. Some of the reforms include increasing competition, rewarding value, and accelerating the approval of generic drugs.

These and other ideas were laid out in May by the Council for Health Care Coverage — a coalition comprised of drug manufacturers, insurers, consumer advocates, and others. They represent a set of consensus reforms that would increase patient access to affordable prescription drugs.

As the important drug cost debate continues, let’s be sure to stick to the facts and stick to policies that promote both innovation and affordability for America’s patients.

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