Latest News | Apr 30, 2019

Readout of Congressional Briefing on International Reference Pricing to Lower Drug Prices

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Today’s congressional briefing featured a bipartisan panel of experts who agreed that International Reference Pricing can lower drug prices in the U.S. while maintaining innovation.

The speakers refuted drug companies’ unfounded claim that reference pricing will harm access or the development of new drugs. And the speakers explained how reference pricing is not price setting any more than the current system of ASP + 6 is price setting. Right now, Medicare sets prices based on a domestic reference price.

John O’Brien, Senior Advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, noted that under HHS’ International Pricing Index, Medicare would receive a share of the discounts that drug companies voluntarily give to other countries, saving patients and Medicare $17 billion over the next five years while protecting innovation and access to medicine.

Rena Conti, Associate Professor at Boston University, argued that an International Pricing Index will lower drug prices, increase quality of treatment, and realign incentives for innovation that will lead to the breakthrough drugs we want.

Peter Bach, Director at the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, focused on the fact that current incentives in Medicare Part B reward doctors for choosing higher-priced prescription drugs. He noted that innovative and effective drugs garner high prices in other countries. But drugs with competition or of limited value have lower prices. International reference pricing will reflect those market dynamics for this country.

Avik Roy, President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, noted that there is no free market for drugs under Part B now. He explained how Medicare is required by law to pay for nearly all FDA-approved physician-administered drugs, regardless of a drug’s quality, price, or value. The IPIM as proposed by HHS would keep the coverage requirement in the US but peg prices to other nations that consider value and price.

David Mitchell, cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now,mentioned that there is no evidence the proposed HHS Part B demonstration or any current Congressional bills that utilize reference pricing would harm patient access to drugs, or hurt innovation.

BACKGROUND: How Reference Pricing Works

Right now, American taxpayers pay twice as much for prescription drugs as citizens in other wealthy nations. An International Pricing Index could bring American prices more in line with what other wealthy nations pay.

A Department of Health and Human Services Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as well as separate bills introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Rick Scott, and Josh Hawley use International Reference Pricing as a tool to lower drug prices in the US while maintaining innovation and access.

Under an international reference price, Medicare would pay no more than a set percentage of the price other wealthy countries pay for certain prescription drugs.