Goodbye, 2019. Hello, 2020! Here is a look at the year in review in prescription drug pricing:
1. States Take a Stand
- In 2019, states passed a record number of laws to rein in high drug prices. California lawmakers passed a groundbreaking bill that would deter Big Pharma from cutting abusive “pay-for-delay” deals. Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to grant its Medicaid program the power to negotiate lower drug prices and to hold companies that refuse to come to the table accountable. Maryland made history by establishing a drug affordability board. And in Maine, bipartisan efforts resulted in a comprehensive slate of prescription drug pricing laws including importation, a prescription drug affordability board, and transparency measures.
2. Federal Momentum Grows
- The CREATES Act cleared Congress as part of a year-end spending agreement. The bill is expected to save the government $4 billion over 10 years by closing a loophole that had prevented generics from coming to market. Drugs impacted include Revlimid, which costs Part D beneficiaries as much as $2,600 for the first month’s supply. While taken by only 37,500 Americans on Medicare Part D, the drug carried the highest total spending for any drug in the program in 2017. Overdue? Yes. The least Congress could do? Yes. But we’ll take it.
3. Patient Voices Grow Louder
- Patients across America are continuing to speak out against ever-increasing prescription drug prices. They’ve testified in statehouses and in Washington, DC and met with legislators in dozens of in-person meetings. And they’ve shared more than 20,000 of their stories with Patients For Affordable Drugs that detail the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make to afford prescriptions, from skipping doses, to cutting pills in half, to forgoing food. The stories of our brave patient advocates can be found here.
4. Pharma Loses Its Edge
- Pharma is losing its edge in Washington. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed the House before year’s end. Stripped from the deal were enhanced biologic patent exclusivity periods in Mexico and Canada that would have blocked competition and kept prices high. The deal is evidence that progress on drug pricing in gridlocked Washington and in the face of the deep-pocketed drug lobby is possible.
5. It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Progress
- We know the road ahead is long, but let’s not forget how far we’ve come. House passage of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, marked a major victory in the fight for lower drug prices. The landmark legislation would expand Medicare benefits, support innovation, and save America billions of dollars from lower drug prices. The bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 cleared the Senate Finance Committee and would cap how much drugmakers could hike prices on medications in Medicare, for the first time, ever. Congress will have another opportunity to work together as it sets about this spring to fund popular health extenders.