Saturday, May 12, 2018

Big Pharma - High Costs - Blame Foreigners

Trump is under pressure to deliver on campaign promises to reduce the high costs of prescription drugs. During his 2016 election campaign he said the government should negotiate drug prices for government health programmes, such as Medicare. He also voiced support for allowing people to buy medicines from countries where they cost less, such as Canada. Neither of those proposals was mentioned in Friday's speech. The pharmaceutical industry spent $279 million on lobbying the Trump administration and Congress" in 2017—"a record amount."

He has accused foreign governments of extorting "unreasonably low prices" from pharmaceutical firms, forcing Americans to pay more to "subsidise the enormous costs of research and development". "That is unacceptable," he said. "It is time to end the global freeloading once and for all," he said, exonerating American drug giants from any blame for soaring costs.

Paul Ginsburg, a professor of health policy at USC and the director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, said firms set prices to maximise profits and already have ample incentives to innovate.

"The notion that if other countries pay more for drugs that US consumers will pay less, that's just not true," Ginsburg explained. "If they are able to get other countries to pay more, I don't believe it will have any effect on prices in the United States," he added. "It will only raise drug company profits."

"In fact, lower prices overseas help keep prices down in U.S., by benchmarking more reasonable prices," Public Citizen noted. "Countries are not 'cheating,' they are just taking modest measures to restrain Big Pharma ripoffs."

Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University, said, "I don't expect that any country is going to say, 'Oh, we're going to increase our prices because President Trump wants it'..."

The US spent $1,443 per capita on pharmaceutical costs in 2016, compared to a range of $466 to $939 in 10 other high income countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and Japan.  Those costs were one of the primary drivers of overall US health spending, which was nearly twice as high as in the other countries. US drug prices are set by companies and subsequently renegotiated with insurers, suppliers and hospitals through rebates, discounts and other measures.

US Health and Human Services Secretary and former pharmaceutical executive, Alex Azar on Friday warned "it will take time" for the system to change.

"There is nothing, absolutely nothing in here to lower drug prices for the 150 million Americans with employer coverage or the millions more with other private insurance," Topher Spiro, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote after reviewing the summary of Trump's plan. Spiro also noted that the plan would do nothing to reduce the "sky-high" costs of specialty drugs.

"When big pharmaceutical companies' stocks spike during your big reveal on lowering prices, you're doing something wrong," Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, said in a statement following Trump's speech on Friday. "Don't be fooled: President Trump and his administration are bought and paid for by Big Pharma."

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