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New Coalition Pushes for Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Consumer concern is fueling the push for major changes in rising drug prices

New Coalition Pushes for Lower Prescription Drug Costs

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The nonpartisan Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing includes major health plans, pharmacists, hospitals and physician groups.

A broad national coalition of insurers, health care providers, employers, insurers and consumers is calling for major changes to reduce sharply rising drug prices, including funding to reduce the government’s backlog of generic drug applications and requiring more information from the drug industry on pricing.

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The nonpartisan Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing includes major health plans, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as pharmacist, hospital and physician groups; Walmart; and AARP.

The campaign’s goal is to raise political awareness of these issues in the coming election. “Every candidate — both Republican and Democrat — has raised the issue of drug prices in speeches as they campaigned across the nation,” John Rother, executive director of the drug-pricing coalition, said at a Monday press conference in Washington. “Voters everywhere are deeply concerned.”

Among the campaign’s proposals:

  • Speed up approval for generic drug applications, especially for expensive drugs that don’t have any competition. The Food and Drug Administration needs more resources to be able to clear up a nearly 4,000-case backlog of generic drug applications.
  • Shorten the 12-year market exclusivity period for costly biologic drugs to allow lower-cost alternatives to enter the market.
  • Oppose “pay for delay” settlements that result in a drug company being compensated for keeping its generic product off the market.
  • Require drug manufacturers to disclose more information about a drug’s cost and to report any planned increase in a drug’s price.
  • Require drug manufacturers to provide information comparing the safety and effectiveness of their product with others already on the market.

Rother called these changes “market-based solutions” that help balance the need for innovation and affordability.

But Robert Zirkelbach, senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug industry trade group, strongly disagreed, saying the proposals would only result in unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy without helping patients.

“These so-called market-based proposals are nothing more than a litany of new government regulations and mandates that would undermine the competitive market and empower government bureaucrats and insurance companies to make one-size-fits-all treatment decisions for patients,” he said in an email to AARP.

He placed more of the blame for rising health care cost on hospitals and insurers. “These proposals only apply to the small share of health care spending that goes toward life-saving medicines while exempting the largest health care cost drivers, such as hospital charges, which include significant markups for prescription medicines,” Zirkelbach said. The majority of older adults, however, want politicians to do something about drug price hikes.

A recent AARP survey found that nearly 9 in 10 people — 87 percent — support efforts to make drugs more affordable, said Debra Whitman, AARP’s chief public policy officer. “You can’t find 87 percent of people agreeing on much of anything these days.”

Plus, the rising cost of drugs “impacts all of us,” not just older adults, she said. “The costs associated with prescription drugs are not sustainable for patients, employers or taxpayers. We are all paying for these drugs.”

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