Democrats’ plan to control drug prices will hurt, not help Americans by stifling innovation and cures

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We are entering the most exciting period of biomedical innovation and advancement in American history. Our growing understanding of human genetics and the promise of personalized medicine will advance the race to cure cancer and treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, this progress will be erased if Congress passes government controls on drug prices, which will end the promise of innovation and prevent patients from seeing the benefits of the next generation of treatments.

Americans are enjoying unprecedented access to innovative new treatments. Of the 460 new drugs approved globally since 2012, 85% are available to Americans, compared to just 59% in the UK and 44% in Canada. Of the 123 new life-saving cancer drugs, 93% are available in the US, compared to just 69% in the UK and 59% in Canada. This is because, for government price controls to work, these countries must denying and rationing care to their citizens.

Our system thrives on access and innovation. Government bureaucrats do not decide whether we have access to drugs. The market provides solutions and Americans use them freely.

Of course, no system is perfect. Our healthcare system needs real reform, not wellness gestures that create longer-term problems, and don’t save real money on drug prices.

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Democratic proposals usually just shift costs so they can hide who pays for what. For example, the Affordable Care Act did not reduce health care spending, it simply transferred more health care costs to taxpayers and increased the cost of insurance for those insured by their employer. Furthermore, the latest reconciliation bill raids Medicare “saves money” through the price control provision to pay ACA subsidies for high net worth individuals.

Will you agree to delay the cure of Alzheimer’s disease by a decade or more? In a few days, the Democrats will force us to accept that instead of revolutionary drugs, we will have to settle for end-of-life care.

Under this same proposal, we would see at least 15% fewer drugs developed and brought to market over the next 17 years. Will you agree to delay the cure of Alzheimer’s disease by a decade or more? In a few days, the Democrats will force us to accept that instead of revolutionary drugs, we will have to settle for end-of-life care.

More than 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. We all know and love someone affected by this relentless disease. It is estimated to cost our healthcare system $321 billion this year, and by 2050 it will exceed $1 trillion. Of the total costs spent on seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, just 10% is spent on prescription drugs. Everything else is hospital and long-term care. Without many of these drugs, we would spend far more on hospitalizations and live shorter, lower quality lives. So what is the human value, not to mention the monetary value of such a cure?

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While it’s politically easy to demonize pharmaceutical companies, Democrats must remember that this industry saved us from the pandemic, developed miracle gene therapies that put terminal cancers into complete remission, and cured the hepatitis C. This industry has done all of this and more because we let them fail and try again. None of the above happened overnight. It was decades in the making.

There are fundamental economic considerations that explain why we are the first and the best in this industry. First, this industry spends more on R&D – it totaled $120 billion last year. It’s a long game though, it often takes 15 years for that investment to make it to the pharmacy counter. But 90% ultimately fail.

Democrats need to remember that this industry saved us from the pandemic, developed miracle gene therapies that put terminal cancers into complete remission, and cured hepatitis C.

All of this money is being spent at great risk – investors don’t know what will work and what won’t. If the federal government eliminates the incentives to make a risky investment, R&D spending will decline.

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Look at the EU: once this governing body took control of the pharmaceutical industry, venture capital, patent registrations and other key factors that demonstrate a strong industry declined significantly. Meanwhile, the United States continues to grow with proof by the numbers and in our local pharmacy.

The pain for us is at the pharmacy with the increase in reimbursable costs. Unlike other healthcare categories, retail prescription drugs represent only 8% of our country’s healthcare expenditure. As list prices have risen less than inflation, drug price negotiators have pocketed more discounts, but are forcing patients to pay more out of pocket. In fact, these bribes for middlemen have exceeded 50% of the list price of many prescription drugs. These bribes must go to the patients and we need a solution to this shortcoming in our system.

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Republicans have solutions. I joined Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho and my colleagues in introducing the Lower Costs, More Treatments Act, which includes more than 20 policies aimed at addressing drug pricing gaps. Much like the new Ensuring Innovation Act and ACT for ALS laws, which we helped draft and support, which have helped lower drug prices, this legislation promotes competition, innovation and safer and more effective pathways towards the approval of new treatments.

There is common ground on making drugs more affordable for Americans, on preserving our R&D pipeline for future treatments, and on the president’s goal of curing cancer. However, no progress will be made if the will and incentive to innovate is decimated.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEN. ROGER MARSHALL, MD


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