New York Post

HillaryCar­e 3.0

Clinton revives one of her worst ‘reform’ ideas


THE zombie scheme to control drug costs by having the government set prices is back from the dead. Pundits in Forbes, The New Yorker and the Huffington Post have been raging about the “unsustaina­ble” price of new cancer drugs all year. But anger about drug prices really went viral when Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceut­icals, hiked the price of a generic tuberculos­is drug he acquired by 5,000 percent.

Now pricecontr­ol proposals are on the ballot in California, Ohio, Massachuse­tts and other states. Unsurprisi­ngly, such plans are supported and encouraged by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who warned she’d rein in prices.

Biotechnol­ogy stocks fell: Investors remembered what happened the last time Clinton went on a pricecontr­ol mission.

But not everyone does. To refresh:

As first lady and in charge of the Bill Clinton administra­tion’s healthcare reform effort, Hillary accused “greedy” drug companies of exorbitant price increases for vaccines. In 1993, she first pro posed nationaliz­ing the vaccine industry. She settled for a Vaccines for Children Program that saw the federal government buy up over half of all available vaccines at government­set prices.

The result? Companies stopped producing and investing in vaccines. The United States started experienci­ng vaccine shortages.

In 1994, the Health Security Act called for the federal government to deny coverage for Medicare patients using drugs deemed “excessivel­y priced” by a public commission. Under the Clinton plan, physicians or pharmacist­s had to obtain prior approval from the government before prescribin­g or dispensing to Medicare patients a drug deemed not costeffect­ive.

Back then, Hillary’s advisers — doctors pretending to be economists — told biotech startups to focus on big targets like heart attacks instead of on rare illnesses like cystic fibrosis and Gaucher’s disease. You see, these “experts” were confident that the government and insurers could come up with “reasonable” prices for new medicines and determine which ones were really necessary.

The biotechnol­ogy industry took years to recover.

As a dry run for these price controls, the Clinton administra­tion supported a “reasonable pricing clause” that required companies that collaborat­ed with scientists from the National Institutes of Health to limit the initial price of breakthrou­gh drugs. The clause required the NIH to base prices on future profits and the amount companies spent on research and developmen­t. As a result, private industry partnershi­ps with NIH were cut by 70 percent.

The vaccine price controls were scrapped. So were the restrictio­ns on companies doing business with the NIH. The government price commission was mothballed.

Since then, vaccines have become a platform technology for treating all types of diseases, including cancer and rare pediatric diseases, as well as delivering stem cells. Biotech investment started to increase again. In recent years a steady stream of new medicines to treat HIV, hepatitis C, cancer, cystic fibrosis and heart disease have become available.

Countries with price controls haven’t made as much progress against such illnesses. And we don’t have to go overseas to see the impact of Clinton’s prescripti­ons: The role model for HillaryCar­e was the Veterans Administra­tion. Now the VA is the unfunniest joke in America’s healthcare system. Its approach to drug access and pricing has ensured veterans are sicker and die sooner than people whose drug prices and utilizatio­n aren’t controlled.

Clinton leads a pack of politician­s who smell an opportunit­y to win votes by punishing successful industries. She has rolled out the same mix of counterpro­ductive policies that have undermined medical innovation in the past: Government­set prices, government­required levels of R&D and government panels — in partnershi­p with health insurers — blacklisti­ng medicines that don’t help their political and financial bottom lines.

It’s easy to support price controls on drugs, especially when Shkreli, the poster child for greed, takes to Tinder to justify his actions. But it’s important to imagine what life would be like if new vaccines and medicines for Ebola, HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis didn’t exist. Cutting prices would have cut new drug developmen­t by up to 60 percent. It still would.

Those supporting pricecontr­ol proposals at the state and federal level should remember that we dodged a bullet by rejecting and reversing price controls.

Hillary Clinton, more than any other politician, should know that.

Robert Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

 ??  ?? The more things change, the more they stay the same: Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies before Congress on health-care reform in 1993.
The more things change, the more they stay the same: Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies before Congress on health-care reform in 1993.
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