Wednesday, March 2, 2016
How will prescription medicine prices be determined in the Future? Time for Congress to step up in the interest of the American people!
(Publisher’s Note: This is Part One of a two-part series examining how Pharma is using Congress’ failure to enact comprehensive legislation to lower prescription medicine prices as an opportunity to advance Pharma’s model of ‘the value of medicines’ as adding to life-spans as the basis for prescription drug pricing with Pharma itself being the ‘determinator’ of the value and cost of medicines.)
There are significant national events taking shape in this country, and not just the Presidential Election.
As important as the elections are to the American future, the moves by Pharma and its front groups to ensure that it will be the ‘determinator’ of how prices for virtually all medicines will be established should spur Congress to step-up and develop a policy based on consensus that can lead to a clearly defined policy that will finally end the predatory pricing practices of Pharma.
Admittedly, the issue of the cost of vital prescription medicines has received ‘extraordinary attention’ from Congress, drawing the ‘wrath’ of Senators and Representatives with hearings, statements of outrage, and the introduction of a number of stand-alone bills to address one or another of many strategies that could and should be a part of a comprehensive approach to lower prescription drug prices.
Unfortunately, the many bills themselves ultimately hinder the chance of lowering prescription drug prices through legislation.
As important as it is that individual Senators and Representatives take a stance on lowering prescription drug prices, it is time for Congress to develop a consensus that incorporates the key, workable elements of each proposal to create a synergy that could lead to legislation to lower prices. This includes:
1. Price negotiation based on recognition that a medicine that is unaffordable is, in and of itself, unavailable;
2. A ‘stakeholder’ role for the American public that supports so much of Pharma R&D, by an increased presence of consumer advocates and private citizen in policy development, hearings, and opportunities for public comment;
3. A revised patent policy that ensures the public investment in R&D is protected in legislation that will provide penalties if Pharma is abusive in its pricing practices;
4. Reciprocal Memorandums of Understanding between regulatory agencies of Tier One Countries as validation of the safety and efficacy of the oversight of personally imported medicines from those countries;
5. Criminal penalties for abuse of pricing practices based on a ‘what the traffic will bear’ philosophy;
6. Greater transparency in Pharma pricing practices;
7. An end to direct to consumer advertising for prescription medicines.
Without such Congressional action, even though we have witnessed a tremendous public outcry (finally) over the predatory pricing practices in which Pharma thumbs its nose at patients, policy-makers, and the American public generally with prices that are based on ‘what the traffic will bear’, there will continue to be virtually not even the slightest chance to actually lower prescription drug prices.
This has opened the door for Pharma to launch a public relations and lobbying campaign to establish its stance that medicines should be priced as a function of the ‘value added’ from the medicine itself, with Pharma itself determining the ‘value’ and, therefore, the price of the medicine.
The million-dollar campaign features one ad showing an infant with a voice-over reminding the viewer (the campaign is targeted towards Congress) that “Time is Precious” and that new medicines give us “hope.”
It would, of course, be wonderful if Pharma truly believes that its primary mission is to offer ‘hope’ through the improved health of the American public.
But when it uses ‘hope’ as a vehicle to continue to price its medicines at unaffordable prices, it is nothing less than a cruel facade played out at the expense of patients. (to be continued)
(In Part Two, we will examine the claims about the ‘flaws’ that have been unfairly attributed to legislative efforts both past and current to lower prescription medicine prices, )