[Ip-health] Statement: White House Fails Affordable Meds Litmus Test

Peter Maybarduk pmaybarduk at citizen.org
Fri Feb 9 13:04:33 PST 2018

For Immediate Release: Feb. 9, 2018

Don Owens, dowens at citizen.org, +1(202) 588-7767
Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, +1(202) 588-7741

White House Plans Fail Affordable Medicines Litmus Test
Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines Director

Note: Today, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a new report, "Reforming Biopharmaceutical Pricing At Home and Abroad," outlining proposals the Trump administration is considering to: 1. Reduce the prices Americans pay now for biopharmaceutical products and 2. Reduce the price of healthcare by raising innovation incentives for future." Press reports indicate that some of these measures may be included in the White House budget proposal scheduled to be released on Monday. 

The Trump administration is failing the litmus test on medicine affordability: will most Americans see medicine prices and healthcare costs fall significantly as a result of these plans? The answer is no. The administration is foregoing the most effective and obvious prescription cost reforms in order to serve Big Pharma. 

The problem with the Trump proposal: It refuses to take measures to curtail Big Pharma's pricing abuses. It refuses to take on the monopolies that undergird Big Pharma's marketing power. 

There are some positive ideas in the Council of Economic Advisers report that would save smaller amounts of money for the government (reducing physician incentives to administer high-price drugs) or for patients (out-of-pocket caps). These savings and reforms are important, yet small compared to the reforms possible if the White House would stand up to prescription corporations. 

Instead of the half-measures announced so far, the Trump administration should: 

* Leverage government negotiating power:
o Keep candidate Trump's promise to untie the government's hands, so that the government can negotiate directly with prescription manufacturers for lower prices on behalf of America's seniors who rely on Medicare. Ninety-two percent of Americans support this proposal, which could save the government $16 billion per year;
* A potentially positive, though not comparable, step the administration may announce on Monday would allow Medicaid to make greater use of formularies.

* Stop annual price spikes:
o Prescription corporations annually raise their prices on old medicines at rates several times medical inflation. The administration should lead and support the "Stop Price Gouging Act," S. 1369," introduced by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.);
* Reports suggest the administration may propose reforming reimbursement incentives for physicians; this step could produce modest savings.

* Curb monopoly abuse:
o The Trump administration has the power under existing law to authorize generic competition with expensive patented medications, transforming pharmaceutical markets and reducing prices by an order of magnitude, including among other needed treatments the antidotes to opioid addiction. 
* The administration is missing bipartisan opportunities to challenge pay-for-delay as well as the CREATES Act (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act), which would stop brand-name interference with product samples and help bring generics to market more quickly.

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