Spiking Pharmaceutical Drug Prices: Can Our Legislators Offer an Effective Answer?

Posted on 03-16-2017 by
Tags: medicine , rising drug prices , Generic Drugs , Pharmaceutical , Brand-Name Drugs , rising drug costs , drugs

 drugs and money

 By Kamal Gregory

Twitter / LinkedIn

Big drug prices make for huge headlines. A few of the more menacing ones:

For many, these skyrocketing (and alarming) drug prices demand a fix.

One possible fix: countering price increases with legislative action. 

The High Price of Brand-Name Drugs and Generic Drugs

In its examination of prescription drug costs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found that:

  • about $5.9 billion was spent for 75 new Medicare Part B drugs (in 2013);
  • nearly two-thirds of those 75 drugs had annual costs of more than $9,000 per beneficiary; and
  • 20 of those drugs (most for rare diseases) had an annual cost that ranged from $51,000-$536,000 per beneficiary.

While generic drugs as a whole haven’t gone up in price, the GAO found that more than 300 established generic drugs saw a price increase of at least 100% or more between 2010 and 2015.

medicine bottle and pills

The “Research” Explanation for Rising Drug Prices

As Ted C. Jones, Ph.D recently noted in his Stewart Title Guaranty Company blog, the United States tops the list of most patents issued from 1977 through 2015. Extensive research precedes many of these patents, and the price of research isn’t cheap.

Drug companies lean on market exclusivity regulations to recoup the research and development costs for new breakthroughs. Some blame this market exclusivity as the main driver for the sharp rise in prescription drug prices.

spilled pills

Is Legislation the Fix for Rising Drug Prices?

Federal and state legislatures have seen the drug-pricing headlines and are poised to act. As an antidote to the sharp rise in drug prices, legislators have put forth several initiatives.

At the federal level, one possible fix is to incentivize lower drug prices by offering big pharma a speedier process for brining drugs to market and/or by removing regulations that deter drug manufacturing. Another federal fix would seek to lower drug prices by legalizing reimported drugs. And another proposal - the Medicare drug negotiation bill - would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.

At the state level, several states are considering drug price control bills. Another legislative option is mandating drug price transparency, which aims to reduce “sticker shock” while requiring drug manufacturers to publicly report and justify drug price increases. As reported by Patient Engagement HIT:

When drug companies have better price transparency, patients can take further measures to help mitigate often prohibitive healthcare costs. Patients can choose to use a generic drug, or can budget their personal finances that will allow them to purchase a costly medication.

As legislatures continue to weigh in on drug prices, you can keep track of important legislative developments with LexisNexis® State Net®.  State Net tracks legislative action at state houses and on Capitol Hill, and its regulatory reporting service gives you one-click access to state and federal regulations. State Net also offers workflow management tools, including Issue Screening, Tracking File and iTrac. Learn more about State Net or access State Net during your free, 7-day trial.

 You can connect with Kamal via Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, if you’re interested in learning about legal solutions, such as State Net®, you can email him at kamal.gregory@lexisnexis.com

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