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Posts Tagged ‘Drug Prices’
July 22nd, 2019 at 1:09 pm
Budget Negotiations: CFIF Opposes Use of Drug Price Controls via “Mandatory Inflation Rebates”
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In ongoing negotiations, it’s reported that some are proposing to employ destructive drug price controls as a mechanism to reach a budget agreement.  For multiple reasons that CFIF has highlighted, that poses a potentially catastrophic idea.

Specifically, it appears that debt ceiling negotiations may include a destructive proposal to reduce federal spending levels by targeting $115 billion from Medicare, which would derive largely from alleged “Medicare savings” through instituting a government-imposed mandatory “inflation rebates.”  As we’ve explained, inflation rebate proposals work by penalizing drug innovators with higher taxes whenever their products exceed an arbitrary inflation mark.  Currently, Medicare Part D’s structure works by employing market-based competition to mitigate drug costs via privately-negotiated rebates, meaning that no specific “price” reliably represents that drug’s underlying price.  Accordingly, the proposal would inherently undermine privately-negotiated Part D plan rebates, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said “appear to make the net prices approach the lowest prices obtained in the private sector.”  Indeed, as the Altarum Institute has highlighted, those Part D plans currently achieve greater brand medicine rebates than private insurers.

Critically, it must also be noted that inflation rebate proposals would violate non-interference clauses that facilitate competition among Part D plans, which provide a critical part of Part D’s success in mitigating costs since its inception.  They would also arbitrarily apply to new pharmaceuticals while bypassing generic brands, which now constitute approximately 90% of Part D prescriptions.  The proposal would also inescapably weaken incentives on the part of Part D plan sponsors to negotiate with drug manufacturers and minimize drug spending under a regime of statutorily-imposed rebates, thereby setting a negative precedent for those sponsors.  It also bears emphasis that private-sector limits on drug cost increases already exist via “price protection rebates” that Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) negotiate with manufacturers.

Accordingly, imposing price controls in Medicare Part D would fundamentally undermine its entire market-based model, which would in turn reduce research and development and slow progress toward new and improved medicines.

Adding insult to injury, such a proposal would constitute a raid on Medicare for the benefit of other government spending pork.  During this era of budgetary waste, the last thing that Congress should consider doing is sacrificing Medicare, particularly when affordability and access to pharmaceutical innovations remains such a top public priority.  Budgetary discipline and access to medicines remains a priority of the highest order, but market-oriented solutions, not destructive gimmicks, offer the optimal solution.  Any proposal to target Medicare Part D for mandatory inflation rebates has not been subjected to full review, committee research, hearings or debate.

American citizens, particularly seniors, should not be subjected to that danger.

 

July 15th, 2019 at 2:22 pm
CFIF to U.S. Senate: On Drug Prices, Say “NO” to Mandatory Inflation Rebate Proposals
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On behalf of over 300,000 of our supporters and activists across the nation, CFIF has written the following letter opposing any use of Mandatory Inflation Rebate Proposals when it comes to the issue of addressing drug prices:

We believe that market-oriented solutions offer the optimal solution, and resolutely oppose any use of mandatory inflation rebate proposals – which would unfairly penalize a drug’s manufacturer with higher taxes whenever that drug’s price rises faster than inflation – that will make matters worse, not better. Among other defects, such a government-imposed penalty would undermine Medicare Part D’s current structure, which uses market-based competition to mitigate drug costs. Part D currently works via privately-negotiated rebates, meaning that no specific price reliably represents a drug’s underlying price. Accordingly, the proposal would inherently undermine privately-negotiated Part D plan rebates, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said “appear to make the net prices approach the lowest prices obtained in the private sector.” Indeed, as the Altarum Institute has highlighted, those Part D plans currently achieve greater brand medicine rebates than private insurers.

Additionally, inflation rebate proposals would violate non-interference clauses that facilitate competition among Part D plans, which provide a critical part of Part D’s success in mitigating costs since its inception. They would also arbitrarily apply to new pharmaceuticals while bypassing generic brands, which now constitute approximately 90% of Part D prescriptions. The proposal would also inescapably weaken incentives on the part of Part D plan sponsors to negotiate with drug manufacturers and minimize drug spending under a regime of statutorily-imposed rebates, thereby setting a negative precedent for those sponsors. It also bears emphasis that private-sector limits on drug cost increases already exist via “price protection rebates” that Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) negotiate with manufacturers.”

The issue of reducing drug prices remains an important one, but it’s just as important that we pursue policies that make the situation better, not those that would make the situation far worse.

February 14th, 2019 at 5:08 pm
Want to Address Drug Costs? Avoid Price Controls, Eliminate PBMs and Don’t Weaken Patents
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In an excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Scott Atlas of Stanford University highlights how Americans enjoy far greater access to new lifesaving drugs than patients in Europe and elsewhere, and how the movement to impose government price controls would only restrict access to new drugs and degrade Americans’ health outcomes, as we at CFIF have been emphasizing:

America has superior treatment results for virtually all serious diseases reliant on drug treatment, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Price controls would jeopardize that advantage…

Pegging drug prices to those of foreign countries, as both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have proposed, would ultimately lead to the same consequences Europeans endure – reduced access to critical drugs and worse outcomes, including more deaths from disease.”

Mr. Atlas also notes how the Trump Administration has taken positive steps toward actually reducing drug prices, by targeting rebates received by pharmacy-benefit managers (PBMs) from drug manufacturers:

The Trump Administration has announced a proposal to do away with rebates paid by drug manufacturers to pharmacy-benefit managers, replacing them with discounts to beneficiaries at the point of sale.  PBMs are middlemen that control ‘formularies,’ the lists of drugs covered by a plan.  Rebates from drug companies to PBMs are payments for influence – either to position a drug on the formulary as ‘exclusive’ or to give it preferred status over competitors.

PBMs act counter to patient interest while aggravating the lack of price transparency.   These complex behind-the-scenes payments – $179 billion in 2016 – reward inflated list prices, on which patient premiums are often based.  This prevents patients from taking account of price…  Go-betweens like PBMs should be eliminated.”

Finally, and just as critically, Mr. Atlas adds that weakening patent and intellectual property (IP) rights would constitute a particularly destructive course:

Drugs are the most significant reason for the past half-century’s unprecedented gains against deadly disease.  But policies that aim to reduce drug prices – price regulation and weaker patent protection – are also associated with delayed availability, less innovation, and limited access.”

Mr. Atlas delves into statistics showing the enormous advantage that Americans enjoy in terms of new drugs and health outcomes, and his piece is well worth the full read.  Hopefully policymakers at all levels of government are listening.

January 15th, 2019 at 11:31 am
Drug Price Controls Would Kill Innovation
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We at CFIF have been emphasizing the threat posed by new drug price controls inexplicably contemplated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  In December, CFIF filed formal Comment opposing that ill-advised proposal, and hopefully wiser minds will prevail before the damage is done.  In similar vein, The Wall Street Journal ran a welcome commentary entitled “The Drug Price-Control Threat” on January 8 of this year, and a followup letter from reader Bruce Zessar of Highland Park, Illinois in today’s edition offers a personal, real-world illustration of what could be lost:

Insulin isn’t the same now as when it was discovered a century ago.  My wife is a Type I diabetic, diagnosed when she was 14 in 1980.  She has been a beneficiary of the tremendous advances in insulin therapy during the last four decades, including Lantus and Humalog.  When we got married in 1990, she had to live on a rigid schedule, eating lunch at, say, noon, and then dinner by 6:30-7:00 every day.  That’s becaue of the way prior insulin therapies worked in managing blood sugar.  With the invention of Lantus and Humalog, she can now live a normal life like everyone else.

Insulin is a shining example of why drugs deserve the utmost patent protection to encourage continual innovation.”

Price controls have never worked in any nation that has tried them, or with any commodity.   Few, if any, products are as important to our lives as America’s world-leading pharmaceutical sector, and we mustn’t let the price control scheme contemplated by the HHS kill the goose that continues to lay golden eggs.