Welcome To The Week In Review.
- “I’m Very Thankful For This.”
- The drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act are continuing to provide much-needed relief to patients. A new report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that 1.5 million people on Medicare would have saved an average of $500 on insulin had the insulin copay cap been in place in 2020. “That’s more money in seniors’ pockets,” remarked President Joe Biden upon the release of the report. Senior William Koopman, who lives with type 2 diabetes and will see his insulin costs drop by more than half, shared, “I’m very thankful for this.” For Patricia in Orange County, Virginia, and Bill in Conneaut, Ohio, the Inflation Reduction Act has meant free access to the expensive shingles vaccine. “This vaccine will protect [Patricia] from an excruciatingly painful condition that affects more than 1 million Americans every year,” wrote Patricia’s Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who supported the legislation. Had the policy been in place in 2020, 3.6 million people on Medicare would have received free shingles shots. These reforms are just the tip of the iceberg for how the Inflation Reduction Act will continue to help patients. “As other parts of the IRA are implemented, 2023 promises to be a year of behind-the-scenes action to shape what consumers pay at the pharmacy counter in the future,” Tradeoffs podcast reported in an interview with STAT News’ Rachel Cohrs. — (HHS, The White House, AARP, Fox News, Star Beacon, KFF, Tradeoffs)
2. Look Out, Big Pharma: Senate Subpoenas On The Horizon
- Senate Democrats appear prepared to capitalize on their expanded majority this Congress by wielding their subpoena power to take on corporate corruption, including within the pharmaceutical industry. In December, Senate Majority Leader Schumer suggested that subpoenas will be key to the Democrats’ strategy this year. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who now chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, indicated he has plans to subpoena pharmaceutical executives to come before Congress. “We are living in a country today where drug companies are making huge profits while people split their life-saving pills in half because they can’t afford them,” shared the senator. Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has indicated that he may subpoena drug corporation Amgen if they don’t respond to his repeated requests for the company’s compliance with the committee’s investigation into Amgen’s unusually low tax rates. We are glad to see these senators take on pharmaceutical corporation corruption and represent patients’ best interests. — (Bloomberg, Fierce Pharma)
3. New Congress, New Opportunities For Drug Price Reform
- With a new Congress, comes renewed opportunities to fix our drug price system to ensure everyone has access to medications. In the Senate, Senators Grassley, Durbin, Tillis, and Coons introduced bipartisan legislation this week that would establish a task force between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to encourage collaboration and aid each agency in boosting competition to drive down the prices of prescription drugs and other goods. “Congress must lead the way in making the patent system more accountable to the public,” the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK)’s Tahir Amin and Priti Krishtel wrote in an op-ed. And, more good news for patients, key members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have doubled down on their commitment to crack down on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) this Congress. Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability James R. Comer plans to hold hearings that look into PBMs, and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden is encouraged by the commitment from members of both parties to work on legislation that takes on the middlemen. The New York Timesthis week laid out a third area that Congress has yet to address: The groundbreaking gene therapies coming to market at astronomical prices. These therapies are powerful treatments, and potential cures, for some of the world’s most devastating diseases, but, “the situation simply isn’t sustainable,” said Ruth Lopert, a health economist at George Washington University. “If it comes all at once and the payments can’t be stretched out, it will have a crushing effect,” shared Dr. Steven Pearson, president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. We are committed to continue to work with Congress and fight for reforms until all patients can afford the prescription drugs they need. – (Office of Senator Grassley, The Hill, Roll Call, Politico, The New York Times)
Have a great weekend, everyone!