Democrats’ plans for drug price controls will hurt, not help Americans by squelching innovation and cures

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We are entering the most exciting time 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, these advances will be negated if Congress passes government drug price controls, which will end the promise of innovation and prevent patients from seeing the benefits of next-generation treatments.

Americans have unprecedented access to new, new treatments. Of the 460 new drugs approved worldwide 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. It’s ingrained that in order for government price controls to work, these countries must deny and ration care to their citizens.

Our system thrives on access and innovation. Government bureaucrats are not allowed to decide whether we have access to medicines. The market offers solutions and Americans use them freely.

Of course, no system is perfect. Our health system needs real reforms, not feel-good gestures that cause more long-term problems and no real savings in drug prices.

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Democratic proposals usually just shift costs so they can mask who pays for what. For example, the Affordable Care Act has not reduced health care spending, but has merely shifted more health care costs to taxpayers and increased insurance costs for people insured through their employers. In addition, the latest reconciliation account raids Medicare “savings” from the price control provision to pay ACA subsidies for wealthy individuals.

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

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

More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. We all know and love someone affected by this relentless disease. It is estimated to cost our health system $321 billion this year, and will exceed $1 trillion by 2050. Only 10% of the total expenditure for seniors with Alzheimer’s goes to prescription drugs. Everything else is hospital and long-term care. Without many of these drugs, we would spend a lot more on hospitalizations and live shorter lives with poorer quality. So what is the human value, let alone the monetary value of such a drug?

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While it’s easy politically to demonize drug companies, Democrats must remember that this industry saved us from the pandemic, developed miraculous gene therapies that put terminal cancers into complete remission, and cured Hepatitis C. This industry has done all 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 reasons why we are the first and the best in this industry. First, this industry spends more on R&D – last year the total was $120 billion. However, it is a long game, often taking 15 years to see that investment make it to the pharmacy counter. But 90% ultimately fail.

Democrats must remember that this industry saved us from the pandemic, developed miraculous gene therapies that put terminal cancers into complete remission and cured Hepatitis C.

All that money is spent with great risk – investors don’t know what works and what doesn’t. If the federal government removes incentives to make risky investments, R&D spending will shrink.

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Look at the EU: When that governing body took control of the pharmaceutical industry, venture capital, patent registrations and other key factors demonstrating a strong industry dropped significantly. Meanwhile, the US continues to grow with evidence by the numbers and at our local pharmacy.

The pain for us is at the pharmacy with rising out-of-pocket costs. Unlike other healthcare categories, retail Prescription drugs account for just 8 percent of our nation’s health spending. While list prices have risen less than inflation, drug price negotiators have bagged more discounts but are forcing patients to pay more out of pocket. In fact, these brokerage kicks have exceeded 50% of the list price for many prescription drugs. Those bribes have to go to the patients and we need a fix for this flaw in our system.

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Republicans have solutions. I joined Senator Michael Crapo, R-Idaho and my colleagues in enacting the Lower Cost, More Cures Act, which includes more than 20 policies to address shortcomings in drug pricing. Like the new laws, the Ensuring Innovation Act and the ACT for ALS, that we helped draft and support that helped lower drug prices, this legislation promotes competition, innovation and safe, more efficient avenues to approval for new treatments.

There is agreement on making drugs more affordable for Americans, preserving our R&D pipeline for future treatments, and the president’s goal of curing cancer. However, progress will never be made if the will and incentive to innovate is decimated.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SEN. ROGER MARSHALL, MD

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