High prescription prices an emergency for too many
The partial federal government shutdown has been the main focus in Washington over the past few weeks. President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats have struggled to reach an agreement over the president’s campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Too bad more of the focus isn’t on a campaign promise made by Trump and members of both parties in Congress — to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Trump and Democrats agree people in the U.S. shouldn’t have to pay more for their medications than those in other economically developed countries. That’s something we all should agree on.
When a 12-week treatment for hepatitis C patients here in the U.S. costs $93,000, but a similar treatment in India costs $900, it’s clear our system is sick. That’s just one example of the disparity. An estimated one in four diabetics rations insulin.
Unfortunately, lowering the costs of prescription drugs seems more elusive than agreeing on border security.
The Trump administration has come out with a plan to lower drug costs that relies on dozens of regulatory actions. Independent experts say the administration’s proposals could have an impact but would not limit the ability of drug companies to set high prices. Analysts have seen little impact so far.
Democrats have introduced legislation to open generic competition to patent-protected U.S. brand named drugs that are deemed “excessively priced,” allow Medicare to directly negotiate with drugmakers and let consumers import lower-priced medications from Canada. The pharmaceutical industry says the bills “would wreak havoc on the U.S. health care system.”
The back and forth means little to the many insured and uninsured Americans who cannot afford medications they need. They shouldn’t have to choose between buying groceries and buying medicine. That’s a real-life emergency that needs solving. Responding with prescription-drug price reform is a promise the president and Congress need to work harder to keep.