Welcome To The Week In Review.
- Time To Crack Down On Sham Citizen Petitions
- While Congress is finalizing an end-of-year budget package, P4ADNow and seven groups sent a letter urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce to boost generic competition and lower prescription drug prices by including the bipartisan legislation Ensuring Timely Access to Generics Act (S. 562) in the package. This bill seeks to reform the Food And Drug Administration’s (FDA) citizen petition process — a tactic wielded by Big Pharma to delay generic approval and market entry. Currently, brand name drug manufacturers misuse the citizen petition process and submit sham petitions to prevent affordable generics from joining the market. “Passing the bipartisan citizen petition bill would be a win-win for Congress – it boosts competition by decreasing barriers for cheaper generic drugs to come to market, driving down prices for patients and saving the government hundreds of millions of dollars,” P4ADNow’s David Mitchell said. “We are grateful for Sens. Shaheen, Cassidy, Bennet, Rubio, and Baldwin’s leadership in advocating for this important reform to ensure the system works as intended for patients and consumers.” P4AD was joined on the letter by Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), American College of Physicians, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, Friends of Cancer Research, and Protect Our Care. — (Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, Common Dreams)
2. Questions Answered By P4AD’s Merith Basey
- P4AD’s patient community embraced our new executive director, Merith Basey, on Thursday with a virtual Q&A forum moderated by New Jersey patient advocate Lisa Ann Wetzel-Trainor. Over the past few weeks, patient advocates in 34 states submitted over 150 questions to Merith about her experience in the drug price advocacy world, the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, and how P4AD plans to fight for lower drug prices, for all patients, moving forward. “This is a really big deal, it wouldn’t have happened without patients. Everyone in this community should be proud,” Merith said of the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act. “This is a crack in the wall of pharmaceutical power – the prescription drug price reforms are truly, truly historic and they represent a monumental victory.” Lisa and Merith discussed the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act in detail – acknowledging this momentous win, explaining what’s in the new law, when it will be implemented, and the impact it will have on patients. Merith detailed P4AD’s goals for the future, which include implementation of the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act, patent reform, ensuring PBMs actually benefit patients, fair launch prices for new drugs, and expanding and diversifying our patient community. — (Patients For Affordable Drugs)
3. What To Expect In 2023
- 2023 is around the corner and patients on Medicare are expecting to soon feel the impact of the drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act. Starting January 1, Medicare beneficiaries who pay for insulin through Part D will have their insulin copays capped to $35 a month. Additionally, Medicare beneficiaries will get their vaccines for free starting in the new year – patients will really feel this relief on expensive shots such as the shingles vaccine. Right now, “Medicare-enrolled recipients may have to pay up to $324 [for a shingles vaccine]— a huge burden for those of us on a fixed income who don’t have a lot to spare,” wrote Sharon Mayer, a senior in Iowa. In 2023, the government will also begin penalizing drug companies for increasing prices above the rate of inflation. For Medicare beneficiaries, that will mean more stability for coinsurances throughout the year. “The Inflation Reduction Act takes significant concrete steps to lower drug costs in the near term – as soon as January 1 – and improves health care affordability in the long-run,” Medicare Director Meena Seshamani said in an interview with Forbes. “It expands Medicare benefits, stabilizes prescription drug premiums and improves the sustainability of the Medicare program.” — (emissourian.com, KAGS, The Gazette, Tennessee Lookout, Forbes)
4. Perpetual Pandemic Price Gouging
- Soon people in the U.S. will face a new pandemic reality: out-of-pocket costs and higher insurance premiums for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Paxlovid, which has been taken by almost 6 million people in the United States to prevent severe disease from COVID infections, has been sold at a discounted, bulk price of $530 per treatment to the federal government. When it hits the private market, it is expected to increase in price; which public health experts believe will lead to a substantial decrease in use of the life-saving medication. And because people of color with a COVID diagnosis in the U.S. are already much less likely to receive Paxlovid and other treatments than white patients, an increase in price is likely to further grow this disparity. Unaffordable pricing and limited supply has already restricted the use of Paxlovid in low and middle-income regions of the world where there is great need for treatment. The taxpayer-funded COVID bivalent vaccines, meanwhile, are expected to increase in price by 3 to 4 times the government rate on the private market for a price of around $100 each dose. “These costs will be borne by both public and private vaccine payers,” explains Kaiser Family Foundation. For Big Pharma, the COVID treatments and vaccines are “a multibillion-dollars franchise,” but for patients, it’s a matter of life or death. It’s pandemic profiteering as usual. — (Kaiser Health News, Kaiser Family Foundation, CNN)
5. Groundbreaking Treatments, Record-breaking Prices
- Cell and gene therapies are the most recent frontier of modern medicine. These remarkable therapies will transform patient lives and could result in long-sought cures for some of the world’s most challenging conditions. But with price tags like Hemgenix’s record-breaking $3.5 million, patients and experts share concerns about how patients and our health system will be able to afford these miraculous new treatments. Patient Jerry McMillian Jr. lives with severe hemophilia and worries about whether Hemgenix will be covered by public and private health insurance plans. “There’s going to be a lot of poor people [without coverage] who can’t afford this,” McMillian said. The issue of price could be even more challenging when there’s a treatment for a larger population of patients. Sickle cell disease impacts 100,000 people in the United States with a staggering 40 percent of those patients qualifying for Medicaid. A promising treatment may come to the market as soon as next year. But if it enters at even a third of the price of Hemgenix, Medicaid will be forced to grapple with whether it can afford to cover the treatment at all. The question came up at the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit this week where experts discussed whether “providing [patients] what could be a functional cure for the disease [is] worth the steep price.” Patients’ health and well-being should not be an economic calculation — we can’t let drug companies dictate prices for these public goods. — (WIRED, Business Insider, Politico)
Have a great weekend, everyone!