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Democrats in the US agree plan to curb drug prices

House Democrats have added a measure to curb prescription drug costs to President Biden’s $1.85tr social safety net plan

A provision added to the upcoming social safety net legislation by Democrats in the House of Representatives will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time.

If the plan is approved by Congress, negotiations on the most expensive treatments covered by Medicare – for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, for example – would start in 2023.

“Fixing prescription drug pricing has consistently been a top issue for Americans year after year, including the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans who want to see a change because they simply cannot afford their medications,” said Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. “Today, we’ve taken a massive step forward in helping alleviate that problem.”

The Democrat’s deal also includes a new $2,000 cap for seniors’ out-of-pocket spending on drugs provided under Medicare Part D, which they get from the pharmacy. Medicare is the federal healthcare programme that covers all people 65 and older as well as those with disabilities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added: “Democrats will deliver strong drug price negotiations to lower prices for our seniors and halt Big Pharma’s outrageous price hikes above inflation.”

Pharma groups welcomed the cap on out-of-pocket costs for seniors but criticised other elements of the deal. “The proposal lets insurers and middlemen like pharmacy benefit managers off the hook when it comes to lowering costs for patients at the pharmacy counter,” said Stephen J Ubl, president and chief executive of industry body, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

“It threatens innovation and makes a broken health care system even worse,” he added.

Under the proposal, most drugs would retain patent exclusivity for nine years before negotiations could start, 12 years for biologics.

The legislation is part of President Biden’s sprawling Build Back Better framework, which aims to “rebuild the backbone of the country – the middle class”, and includes measures on climate change, education, housing, childcare and health, while also promising to reduce the deficit. The additional spending will be paid for through taxes on companies and the rich.

The prescription drug section of the legislation could be among the final major changes to the sprawling climate change and social safety net bill that Democratic leaders hope to bring to a House vote this week.

Article by
Hugh Gosling

4th November 2021

From: Healthcare

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