Experts debate drug prices, legislation

November 14, 2019

Trump claims lower drug prices, fights Pelosi bill.

Have drug prices increased or declined over the past year? That is the burning question that has divided pharma makers, the healthcare industry, and the nation, in 2019.

In a press release, the White House said that overall prescription drug costs have declined over the past year-contrary to media reports. A recent Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) paper shows prescription drug prices have seen year-over-year declines in nine of the last 10 months, with a 1.1% drop in July. “In June 2019, the United States saw the largest single-year drop (2%)…in prescription drug prices since 1967,” the White House said.

Related: Experts debate drug pricing policies

In the 8 years prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, prescription drug prices increased by an average of 3.6% per year, the White House said.

Other reports demonstrate that drug prices have increased, because they examine the list prices of brand name drugs, which have gone up, Jeremey Schafer, PharmD, senior vice president and director of the Access Experience Team at Precision for Value, told FormularyWatch®. “However, when factoring in rebates/discounts and generics, there is data to indicate that costs have come down. For the patient or employer, however, which has seen rising premiums and challenges to afford healthcare, the point is probably moot.”

While President Trump has proposed a “favored nations” policy, in which drug prices in the United States would be capped at the lowest price being paid by other countries, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s is pushing a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Related: Inside Trump’s plan to lower drug prices

A senior White House official told the Associated Press that the Administration has concluded Pelosi’s plan is “unworkable” and Trump will instead support bipartisan legislation pending in the Senate.

Schafer and others do not expect Pelosi’s bill to pass.

“Republican opposition is significant and the president has shifted his support to the PDPRA [Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act] bill in the Senate. These barriers should make Pelosi’s bill dead in the water,” Schafer said.

"HR 3 should be called the PBM Protection Act. Nothing in this bill requires passing price cuts directly to patients,” Robert Goldberg, co-founder and vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told FormularyWatch®. “Instead, government-set prices create a multi-billion-dollar windfall for PBMs and health plans who can still impose prior authorization, cost sharing, and step therapy to limit access.”  

While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that HR 3 would reduce federal spending by $345 billion by 2029, the CBO determined that the expense of these savings would be a reduction in new drugs to the market, Schafer said.

“The rapid pace of innovation in areas like cancer and rare disease is thanks, in part, to the potential financial rewards that manufacturers can reap in the US market. If these rewards are reduced, one can reasonably ask whether these kinds of innovations will continue,” Schafer said.

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