As the New Year started, prices went up. That could change.
Prescription drugs have been under increased scrutiny from Congress and the federal government, but that didn’t stop pharmaceutical companies from raising prices as soon as the New Year began.
A large majority of Americans consistently say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. Lowering the price tag on those drugs has become a regular focus for moderate Democrats like Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who unseated a Republican incumbent in his 2018 bid for New York’s 22nd congressional district.
Brindisi helped pass Democrats’ recent legislative bid to address soaring prescription drug costs in the U.S., which has the highest prescription drug prices in the developed world, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.
Still, drugmakers like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have already raised prices on more than 445 medications, according to Reuters, which cites healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.
The list includes brand names like the cancer treatment Ibrance, rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz, and multiple sclerosis medicine Gileny. Median price increases so far have hovered between 5.5% and 7%.
To make drugs like insulin more affordable, House Democrats introduced the Lower Drug Costs Now Act in September, which gives the government the authority to directly negotiate the price of select brand-name drugs that don’t have generic options.
“Allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies will take money out of the hands of big drug companies and put it back in the pocket of seniors and working families,” Brindisi said in a statement. “H.R. 3 will help millions of seniors on a fixed income and working families trying to make ends meet.”
Eighty-eight percent of voters surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation favor allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price for people with Medicare.
The legislation would cap drug prices at 120% of what they sell for in other industrialized countries. Big pharmaceutical companies that don’t negotiate would face an excise tax ranging from 65% to 95%. The price negotiation provisions of the bill would save the government $456 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Private insurers could also use the lower prices, which would primarily help Medicare Part D beneficiaries afford their medications.
Brindisi and other proponents of the legislation are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act swiftly on the bill in the new year. The ethos of the legislation — lowering drug costs — is backed by President Donald Trump, a Republican, who made lowering drug prices a talking point in his 2016 presidential campaign.
However, Trump has struggled to deliver on that promise; instead, he has threatened to veto the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, citing concerns over the bill’s effect on drug access and supply.