Drug Policy: The Year In Review, And The Year Ahead image

Health Affairs Blog, January 4, 2018
Rachel E. Sachs (Academic Fellow Alumna)


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From the article: 

Last year was an unquestionably busy time for health care news of all kinds. Media and policy coverage rightly focused on the many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but it was also an eventful year in news for those of us who focus on prescription drug policy. In this post, I review five of the biggest drug policy developments of the past year, and look ahead to five issues I expect to make headlines in 2018.


1. Inaction From The White House And Congress On Drug Pricing

Arguably the biggest story of the year was, well, a non-story. Throughout 2016 and early 2017, candidate and then President-Elect Donald Trump talked a big game about drug pricing. He suggested that Medicare should negotiate drug prices, made drug importation part of his health care platform, and accused pharmaceutical companies of “getting away with murder.”

Yet President Trump has failed to take even a single action on the topic of drug pricing. He has periodically renewed his rhetoric against the drug companies, but his actions are to the contrary. His proposed budget does not call for Medicare to negotiate prices, as President Barack Obama’s did; he has seemingly abandoned his view on importation; and his choice for the next head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a former pharmaceutical CEO who is unlikely to take significant action against the industry. At least some pharmaceutical companies no longer believe President Trump's rhetoric, and with good reason. These are not the actions of a man who truly cares about this issue.

Congress has been somewhat more active on the subject. Democrats have introduced a number of bills in both houses of Congress that would address different drug pricing issues. I have summarized the provisions of the most comprehensive bill, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, here. Other bills would focus on particular issues, such as Medicare drug price negotiation or pay-for-delay deals. Yet even bills with bipartisan support, such as the CREATES Act, cannot seem to gain traction in Congress.

In the last few weeks of 2017, the Senate HELP Committee and Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee held hearings on the topic of drug pricing. But based on the inaction of this last year, I do not anticipate legislative movement any time soon. [...]

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health care reform health law policy pharmaceuticals rachel sachs regulation