Whatever one happens to believe about the issue of drug prices and the profitability and viability of the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry, it is clear that pressure is increasing to seek drug pricing mechanisms that make valuable treatments more accessible for the patients who need them here in America.
According to an announcement this morning from The Mayo Clinic, a group of 118 leading cancer experts has drafted proposals for reducing the high cost of cancer drugs and voiced support for a patient-based grassroots movement demanding action on the issue. (An article is currently “in press” in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.)
In addition, a petition has been made available at the Change.org web site that asks the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the U.S. House of Representatives. the U.S. Senate, and the President of the United States to take action promptly on the issue of cancer drug prices.
Basically, the panel is recommending several possible actions that might lead to lower costs of cancer drugs:
- Creation of mechanism to propose a fair price for new treatments that is based on the value to patients and heath care (following FDA approval of any new drug)
- Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers/marketers
- Allowing the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to evaluate the benefits of new treatments and similar organizations to include drug prices in their assessments of the treatment value
- Allowing importation of cancer drugs across borders for personal use
- Passage of legislation to prevent drug companies from delaying access to generic drugs
- Reforms to the patent system to make it more difficult to prolong product exclusivity unnecessarily (commonly known as patent “evergreening”)
- Encouraging organizations that represent cancer specialists and patients to consider the overall value of drugs and treatments in formulating treatment guidelines
Whether or not any of these recommendations is actually viable in the short term is a difficult question to answer at this time. However, as noted on Calcium Medical Monitor just the other day, 87 percent of Americans now feel that Medicare should have the authority to negotiate with drug-makers for lower prices on medications.