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Perspectives: Can Drug Pricing Legislation Gain Traction In This Post-Election Washington?

Kaiser Health News

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Stat: The New Congress Must Take Action To Lower Drug Prices With the new Congress mostly in place, now split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, a new dynamic is in place. Any legislation, including efforts to rein in drug prices, will need to have bipartisan support to move forward. Bringing pricing restraint to the costliest prescription drugs should be a bipartisan priority, especially given President Trump’s public pledges to act on drug prices and the negative impact of costly drugs on the federal budget, not to mention on the budgets of families and employers. The change in the House should provide a new political dynamic that offers possibilities for real action on drug prices. Trump campaigned on a promise to lower “astronomical” drug prices, and called for giving Medicare more negotiating power. He summoned CEOs from the big pharmaceutical firms to the Oval Office shortly after he was sworn in, brought in the TV cameras, and promised to do something about drug prices. (John Rother and David Durenberger, 11/7)

Bloomberg: Big Pharma's Price Freezes Aren't Fooling Anybody Pfizer Inc. was called out by Trump in a July tweet over mid-year price increases the drug giant pushed through on a number of its medicines, and the public shaming prompted the company to roll back the increases. That was followed by appeasement from other big pharma firms including Merck & Co., Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG. It’s been obvious from the start that these moves were cosmetic. Roche, for example, promised to forego further price increases this year only after it had already enacted hikes on some of its biggest sellers. But the earnings reports are further proof that efforts intended to mollify the president didn’t involve much if any sacrifice. (Max Nisen, 10/31)

Washington Times: 'Transparency' Alone Can't Convey The Context Or Complexity Of Pricing Drugs Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wants to make prescription drug pricing more transparent. We agree, but his well-intentioned plan will only confuse and mislead consumers. What’s the good of listing drug prices in advertising if almost no one pays that “list price?” When patients say, “My drugs are too expensive,” they’re not talking about the list price — they’re talking about their co-pays at the pharmacy. While pharmaceutical companies determine a drug’s list price, known as the wholesale acquisition cost (WAC), health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) determine what patients will actually pay for those drugs. These “payers” negotiate discounts and rebates from drug companies that can reach 40 percent or 50 percent off the WAC price. Unfortunately, these health care middlemen keep much of those savings and pass only a paltry portion of the discounts on to consumers. (Peter J. Pitts and Merrill Matthews, 11/6)

The Columbus Dispatch: Editorial: Drug-Price Database Can Lead To Change One thing we hope the Dispatch series “Side Effects” has made clear is just how unclear our nation’s drug-pricing system is — how many hidden manipulations affect the price we pay for medications and where that money goes. Making those machinations more visible is the key to driving change in a system that benefits invisible players at the expense of the taxpaying public and independent pharmacists. (11/7)

Bloomberg: Eli Lilly’s Big Picture Justifies Its Lofty Valuation Eli Lilly & Co. has been a darling of pharma investors, as evidenced by the stock’s large premium to its peer group. But their fondness has been based more on promise than real-world delivery. The drug giant’s third-quarter earnings report Tuesday drove that home. Lilly wouldn’t have met sales expectations without a decent performance from some of its older medicines — something that can’t be counted on in future — and the company’s shares fell more than 4 percent in early trading as a result. (Max Nisen, 11/6)

Bloomberg: AbbVie Best-Seller Humira Shows Its Mortality It’s pretty nice to be the maker of the world’s best-selling drug. Too bad investors always want to know what’s next. AbbVie Inc. announced third-quarter earnings Friday that beat analysts’ profit expectations and, on top of that, increased its 2018 guidance and boosted its dividend. As always, the gains were propelled by its super-blockbuster Humira, which generated $5.12 billion in sales in the quarter. But the good times, or at least the best of them, are coming to a close. (Max Nisen, 11/2)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.