Three Encouraging Steps on Prescription Drug Costs

BIOtech Now
Brian Newell

It’s a refrain you hear often in the news: Drug costs are soaring and nothing is being done about it. But both claims have a tough time standing up to the facts.

For starters, prescription drug spending and prices are actually remarkably stable.

This doesn’t mean some families aren’t feeling the pressure of drug costs, or that policymakers shouldn’t look for opportunities to expand access to affordable medicines. Of course they should, and in fact, they are. A number of encouraging steps have been taken in recent months that will have a positive impact on patients.

Accelerating the delivery of lower-cost generic medicines. Under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it a top priority to improve competition within the prescription drug market, and a key part of the effort has been encouraging the delivery of more generic medications.

In June, the FDA announced a number of steps to do just that, such as expediting the review of generic-drug applications for medicines that lack robust competition. The agency has promised to announce additional action aimed at providing patients access to lower-cost prescription drugs.

As Commissioner Gottlieb said, “I am committed to continuing to pursue additional policy steps, under the FDA’s current authority, to help reduce the burden on patients.”

Strengthening the approval process for new drugs. The FDA plays a critical role ensuring patients have access to safe and effective prescription drugs. However, its approval process can be cumbersome and time consuming. Fortunately, Congress recently passed a number of reforms to the process that will benefit patients and advance biomedical innovation.

Known as the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act, the legislation will help streamline the clinical trial process, enhance drug safety, enhance competition for generics and biosimilar therapies, better incorporate patient perspectives into regulatory decisions, and more.

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood remarked earlier this month that passing this important bipartisan legislation is “an important victory for patients and for the next generation of medical innovation.”

Advancing positive, consensus solutions to improve access and affordability. In May, a coalition that includes drugmakers, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and employers put forward a set of consensus reforms to address prescription drug costs.

Formally released by the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, the proposal calls for increasing competition, adopting a drug pricing model that rewards value over volume, empowering consumers to make informed choices, and rejecting flawed policies that undermine innovation and jeopardize patient safety.

As Jim recently wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The council’s work proves there are opportunities to build consensus around common-sense solutions that will lower drug costs and make a positive difference in the lives of patients.”

These encouraging steps represent what’s possible when policymakers and stakeholders work together on solutions that are commonsense, responsible, and built on consensus.

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