It’s a refrain you hear often in the news: Drug costs are soaring and nothing is being done about it. But both claims have a tough time standing up to the facts.
For starters, prescription drug spending and prices are actually remarkably stable.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that in 2016 prices grew by a modest 2.1 percent for all drugs, and even slower growth is expected this year.
- A review by QuintilesIMS of drug spending revealed that the net price for branded drugs grew by just 3.5 percent in 2016, and this stability is expected to continue in the coming years.
- Prescription drug spending represents just 14 percent of all health care spending—roughly the same as in 1960.
- Don’t forget that about 90 percent of drugs sold in the U.S. are low-cost generic drugs. As The New York Times noted, “If you’re doctor writes you a prescription, there is a very good chance it will cost you $10 or less.”
This doesn’t mean some families aren’t feeling the pressure of drug costs, or that policymakers shouldn’t look for opportunities to expand access to affordable medicines. Of course they should, and in fact, they are. A number of encouraging steps have been taken in recent months that will have a positive impact on patients.
Accelerating the delivery of lower-cost generic medicines. Under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it a top priority to improve competition within the prescription drug market, and a key part of the effort has been encouraging the delivery of more generic medications.
In June, the FDA announced a number of steps to do just that, such as expediting the review of generic-drug applications for medicines that lack robust competition. The agency has promised to announce additional action aimed at providing patients access to lower-cost prescription drugs.
As Commissioner Gottlieb said, “I am committed to continuing to pursue additional policy steps, under the FDA’s current authority, to help reduce the burden on patients.”
Strengthening the approval process for new drugs. The FDA plays a critical role ensuring patients have access to safe and effective prescription drugs. However, its approval process can be cumbersome and time consuming. Fortunately, Congress recently passed a number of reforms to the process that will benefit patients and advance biomedical innovation.
Known as the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act, the legislation will help streamline the clinical trial process, enhance drug safety, enhance competition for generics and biosimilar therapies, better incorporate patient perspectives into regulatory decisions, and more.
BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood remarked earlier this month that passing this important bipartisan legislation is “an important victory for patients and for the next generation of medical innovation.”
Advancing positive, consensus solutions to improve access and affordability. In May, a coalition that includes drugmakers, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and employers put forward a set of consensus reforms to address prescription drug costs.
Formally released by the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, the proposal calls for increasing competition, adopting a drug pricing model that rewards value over volume, empowering consumers to make informed choices, and rejecting flawed policies that undermine innovation and jeopardize patient safety.
As Jim recently wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The council’s work proves there are opportunities to build consensus around common-sense solutions that will lower drug costs and make a positive difference in the lives of patients.”
These encouraging steps represent what’s possible when policymakers and stakeholders work together on solutions that are commonsense, responsible, and built on consensus.