Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Americans are paying too much for their prescription drugs.
Over the last six years, the median cost of prescription drugs has increased over 70 percent, leaving Americans with an ever-increasing burden for prescriptions that their lives literally depend on. As someone whose family is personally impacted by high prescription drug costs, I understand the struggles that Americans are facing.
There’s more than a handful of reasons why drug prices have skyrocketed, but suffocating regulations by the Food and Drug Administration that slow down production and pharmaceutical companies “gaming the system” are two of the biggest issues.
While the FDA has established important safeguards to prevent dangerous and untested drugs from going into the marketplace, they’ve also made the development of new drugs painfully slow. The intense research and development, coupled with a painstakingly sluggish approval process, gives Big Pharma the excuse to charge astronomical prices to make up for their long-term investments.
To fix this issue, we must streamline FDA approvals of generic and biosimilar drugs and reform the process to improve efficiency so that prescriptions can make it to the marketplace faster while still maintaining quality standards.
In addition, drug companies have learned to game the system through “pay-for-delay” agreements in which the brand name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer of a drug to keep the generic equivalent off the market. This unscrupulous practice allows drug manufacturers to keep their generic competition off the market and out of the hands of Americans who need it.
Drug manufacturers also have withheld samples of their drugs in order to delay patients’ access to the generic drug market. These agreements and manipulation of the market must stop in order to promote affordability and competition within the marketplace.
It may seem like the issues facing prescription drug pricing are overwhelming, but House Republicans in December introduced comprehensive bipartisan legislation to lower out-of-pocket spending, protect access to innovative new medicines and cures, strengthen transparency and accountability and champion competition.
The “Lower Costs, More Cures Act” is wholly bipartisan. In fact, every single provision has support of Republicans and Democrats, so this legislation actually has a real chance at becoming law, unlike many of the other alternative bills.
One of the biggest provisions in this House resolution is the introduction of transparency into drug costs. When individuals go to the pharmacy to pick up their prescription, they often don’t know what the cost will be until the drug has been rung up at the counter. The sticker shock can sometimes mean people either leave without their necessary prescription or have to sacrifice in other areas of their budget just to make ends meet.
This bill will require insurance companies to make information about drug costs available in the doctor’s office before a prescription is written, so a patient knows the cost. Doctors can also prescribe the medicine that treats the patient and fits into their budget. There’s no reason that drug prices shouldn’t be readily available before you get to the pharmacy.
The bill also increases competition that drives down costs by focusing the FDA on bringing more generic and biosimilar competition to the marketplace faster.
Allowing for similar drugs at a lower cost naturally drives down prices. For example, before a generic version of the EpiPen entered the market, prices for the life-saving injectable had skyrocketed. Once a similar product became available, EpiPen was forced to lower their price to meet consumer buying behavior.
The biggest barrier to competition is the FDA regulations, but this bill will reform those standards while maintaining safety. It’s plain and simple: Increasing competition decreases costs and empowers consumers to be in control of the pricing.
Lastly, when pharmaceutical companies game the system, Americans lose. This legislation prohibits “pay-for-delay” agreements and allows for actions against bad actors who delay generics and biosimilars from reaching the market. A key driver of real change in drug pricing is putting power back in the hands of consumers to determine the market versus allowing drug manufacturers the ability to direct the system.
Americans have had enough of unaffordable prescription drugs. Legislation must fix the root of the problem. It’s time for Congress to stop with the partisan nonsense and tackle the issues that are impacting Americans.
I urge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring this bill up for a bipartisan vote soon.