Drug pricing for dummies

Prescription drugs
Soaring drug prices aren’t new. Sadly, neither is the lack of oversight in regulating greedy drug companies. | Image: Thought Catalog

Philadelphia Weekly, like countless other news publications in the city and all across the country, gets these syndicated guest columns that we can run – if they work.

We generally don’t because they usually are just the rant of some random “expert” opinion on something so grandiose we wouldn’t waste precious newsprint on it. However, I’ve been following Medicare and Medicaid prescription drama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desire to get a drug pricing reform bill passed. 

Side note: Do you know there are older Philadelphians right now who are shopping the Medicare marketplace and may not know that they’re getting screwed? Investigative website ProPublica dropped a pretty intense piece just last week that a tool feature on the Medicare.gov website could be screwing thousands. 

Google “ProPublica and “Medicare” and check it out. It’s a pretty alarming read. 

But back to the columns. I want you to take a look at the one below from Drew Johnson at the National Center for Public Policy Research and if you care about this stuff (and if you have living grandparents or older parents who qualify or if you qualify then you should care) shoot us your thoughts at voices@philadelphiaweekly.com

Also read about the Love City Satanists too, this week’s cover story. Writer Timaree Schmit paints one hell of a picture on this group that’s grown from a collective of 40 to over 500 strong in support. Shit is wild. 

OK, catch you next week. 

Senate drug plan helps government, hurts patients

Since Nancy Pelosi became House Speaker in 2007, Republicans have spent an incredible amount of time and energy pushing back against her progressive policy proposals. That’s why it’s odd that the GOP’s newest drug pricing bill is a watered-down copy of one of Pelosi’s worst ideas.

Speaker Pelosi recently introduced H.R. 3, a drug pricing bill that would install what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called “socialist price controls” on most Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions. H.R. 3 would cause the price of certain drugs to soar, reduce the availability of many prescriptions, and dry up investment in innovative, life-saving drugs.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee responded to Pelosi with their own, competing for legislation. The GOP drug pricing plan would install an inflation penalty that functions, according to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), like socialist “price controls” on Medicare medicines. And just like the House Democrats’ drug pricing plan, the Republicans’ version would cause the price of certain drugs to soar, reduce the availability of many prescriptions, and dry up investment in innovative, life-saving drugs.

There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats’ troubling drug pricing scheme and the Republican alternative.

Pelosi’s H.R. 3 would cap the price of prescriptions at 120 percent of the average price of the drug in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Price controls on medicines have had devastating consequences in the countries Pelosi wants to emulate.

Of 220 new drugs launched from 2011 to 2017, 90 percent were available in the United States. Just two-thirds were available to patients in the UK, only half were offered in Canada and France, and a paltry one-third were available in Australia.

Medical innovation has also dried up in these countries. The portion of new medicines originating from the UK, France and Germany has been slashed in half over the past 40 years.

Unfortunately, the Senate Republicans’ alternative drug pricing plan is plagued with many of the same problems as Pelosi’s proposal.

Republicans call their price control scheme an “inflation penalty” but it functions the same as Pelosi’s socialist price cap. Under the GOP bill, if a drug price increases beyond the rate of inflation, the manufacturer has to pay a fine to the federal government equal to that cost hike.

Senate Republicans also want to force drug manufacturers to pay 20 percent of seniors’ prescription costs once an individual’s out-of-pocket-costs reach $3,100 annually.

The price caps, taxes, penalties and payments the House Democrats and Senate Republicans want won’t do much to actually lower costs to patients, but they will almost certainly cause Americans to die. That’s because these “solutions” all remove the incentive for drug manufacturers to invest money into R&D.

It costs an average of $2.6 billion to bring a new drug to the market. Under both proposals being floated in Congress, manufacturers would find it almost impossible to recoup their investment in developing new medicines. Not only would incentives to create groundbreaking, but life-saving medicines also vanish, a competition that lowers the price of drugs would dry up as well.

As Republicans head into the 2020 elections, many Americans are starving for free-market health-care solutions – not more socialist schemes that reduce options, make medications harder to find and threaten the future of life-saving new drugs.

Senate Republicans should scrap their rip-off of the Democrats’ prescription proposal and do more to differentiate themselves from Speaker Pelosi’s big government drug pricing plan.   

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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