President Trump vowed to expand patient access to prescription drugs on the campaign trail. But with one proposal, his administration seems to be working against this goal.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently unveiled a plan to impose artificial price controls on physician-administered drugs under Medicare Part B.
While the proposal could trim government spending, it will reduce access to medicine and innovation.
It’s no surprise that HHS wants to tackle drug spending. In 2016, the government spent over $29 billion on drugs covered by Part B, nearly double compared to other developed counties.
Many countries rely on price controls to manipulate drug costs. Canada, for instance, never lets a medicine’s cost exceed its price in seven other countries. The United Kingdom simply denies patients access to certain treatments if they’re deemed too expensive.
Now, HHS wants to employ similar tactics. Under its plan, Medicare would tie reimbursement for Part B drugs to the prices paid in foreign countries.
The United States leads the world in drug development because we value drugs appropriately. The U.S. biopharmaceutical industry invests more than $65 billion every year. American firms are responsible for more than half of all medicines developed worldwide.
Thanks to these breakthroughs, U.S. life expectancy has increased every decade since 1950.
Drug development isn’t cheap or easy. Just 12 percent of medicines make it through the R&D pipeline. It can take 15 years and $2.6 billion to see a drug reach shelves.
Price controls make investing in breakthrough research more uncertain. If governments cap what they’ll pay for drugs, there’s no guarantee that manufacturers will ever benefit from their discoveries. Instead of putting money towards cures, investors would look to less risky endeavors.
If the president wants to put American patients first, he should instruct HHS to abandon its proposal.
Dr. Raymond Kordonowy is in private practice medicine in Fort Myers, Florida, who specializes in internal medicine. He has a direct primary care/membership practice. He is a former delegate to the Florida Medical Association.