Drug pricing preserves status quo- Part 2

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 1, 2018

By Trudy Liberman 

For example, the blueprint calls for examining whether to allow Medicare drug plans to pay different amounts for the same drug depending on the illness involved.

And the government wants to explore money-back guarantees in which a drug manufacturer promises to give back money if a medication does not work.

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Insurers are already engaging in this practice with pharmaceutical companies, but cost savings are unclear.

The administration also wants to consider listing the price of pharmaceuticals, but it’s not clear that affects consumer behavior or brings market pressure to bear.

Another idea the president threw out was to pressure other countries into raising the prices of drugs their citizens buy.

Although he said high drug prices in the U.S. are subsidizing innovation that benefits the world and noted that “America will not be cheated any longer by foreign countries,” details for this proposal were vague.

In many nations prices are determined through negotiations between the government and the pharmaceutical industry.

Would other countries raise their prices to please the U.S.?  Would American drug makers lower theirs? 

Nothing in this vague blueprint surprises me.

Until my recent illness – an infection that caused my system to shut down and resulted in a four-month hospitalization – I was following a campaign by the drug industry to rehabilitate itself and seize control of the public narrative over drug prices, as Politico described it. 

One way the drug industry did that was to retool its lobbying machine, try to drive a broader discussion on health costs, and emphasize that other players had a role to play in keeping down costs. 

Almost daily, a drug company or a related business sponsored content in several online health newsletters that are read by Washington lobbyists, health experts, Congressional staff members, and journalists.

Sometimes the sponsored messages looked like the regular content of the newsletter.

Even though they were flagged as paid content, the format often made me think I was reading a legitimate news story. 

One “story” sponsored by the pharmacy benefit management industry said they were not the ones to blame for higher prices.      

With clout like this, is it any wonder the industry has managed to keep drug price negotiation out of the picture?

How have high drug prices affected you?  Write to Trudy at trudy.lieberman@gmail.com.