SUMMARY: Democrats on Thursday passed sweeping legislation to lower prescription drug prices but the bill will not pass the Senate due to excessive lobbying by PhRMA which has bought politicians. Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices with drug companies the argument that it will lead to a decline in innovation is bullshit.
According to STAT News “Democrats project that their bill, which would require Medicare to negotiate the price of between 50 and 250 prescription drugs, would lower consumer drug spending by 55%, save the federal government nearly $400 billion, and slash drug industry revenues by $1 trillion in the coming decade. Democrats plan to invest those funds in a historic Medicare expansion that would allow the program to fund hearing, vision, and dental benefits for the first time”.
The legislation would allow Medicare to directly negotiate the price of insulin products and up to 250 additional drugs per year. It would cap payments for drugs in the U.S. at 120% of the average prices in Germany, Japan, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, under threat of a 95% excise tax, would be effectively forced to lower prices below the new thresholds.
This comes at a time when a record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup’s trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.
Pharma companies have been showering U.S. senators with campaign cash. In the first six months of this year alone, political action committees run by employees of drug companies and their trade groups have given the 30 senators expected to run for reelection nearly $845,000, the latest update to Kaiser Health News’ “Pharma Cash to Congress” database shows. That hefty sum stands out with Election Day more than 14 months away.
Most of the biggest donations in the first half of 2019 have gone to Republicans, who control the Senate and tend to be more reluctant to restrict drugmakers. And even those who do not serve on committees that oversee the industry or represent states with significant industry ties have benefited from drugmaker cash this year.
Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also running for reelection, has seen an uptick in donations: He received more than $85,000 during the first half of the year, a record for him over the course of the past eight years.
Prescription drugs play an important role in medical care for 60 million seniors and people with disabilities and account for nearly $1 out of every $5 in Medicare spending. The majority of Medicare prescription drug spending—totaling $129 billion in 2016—is for drugs covered under the Part D prescription drug benefit, which is administered by private stand-alone drug plans and Medicare Advantage drug plans. Medicare Part B also covers drugs that are administered to patients in physician offices and other outpatient settings.
Drug companies have bought and paid for the politicians but this is against the wishes of the American people. How many more people have to die because they can’t afford medications? How many pharma CEOs need to take home millions of dollars in compensation? It’s time to end this charade.