A February 2020 Gallup poll found that 66% of all Americans (and even 47% of Republicans) are concerned about rising drug prices. More than half of them indicated that drug prices had “increased a lot” from 2017 to 2020.
I have never been a supporter of Trump because of his racism, misogyny, and promotion of division. However, I was 100% in favor of his idea of using an order in council to allow the importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada. But, like many things that could have been positive during his tenure, he never followed through with the implementation as outlined above. In fact, only 31% of Americans believe he has made any headway on drug prices, even though he often mentioned it in his speeches.
Without the COVID-19 pandemic, drug prices would certainly have been a key issue in the November 2020 election. House Democrats had approved the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which Mitch McConnell, controlled in the Senate. by the GOP, quickly made sure it never came up for a vote, even though 72% of Republicans polled thought it should have been considered and voted on by the Senate. This bill would have allowed DHHS to negotiate prices with drug companies for key drugs, a good start, albeit a limited one.
Among Democrats, 45% saw the issue of drug prices as very important before the pandemic, as did more than a third of independents. Instead, Biden and the National Democrats (correctly) focused on Trump’s complete mismanagement of the US response to the virus. And won the election.
President Biden recently issued an executive order to improve market efficiency. But he did not specify the legalization of the importation of drugs from other countries or the negotiation of prices. It might have, among other specific recommendations that are listed in a recent Commonwealth Fund report.
Why do we need government intervention related to the pricing of pharmaceuticals? Because the normal competitive market theory just doesn’t work in healthcare, where the United States pays the highest drug prices in the developed world, even though many pharmaceutical manufacturers are based here.
A recent analysis of drug prices found that the United States pays more than two and a half times the price of 32 OECD countries. We pay almost 8 times more for brand name drugs than Turkey, which should have very little influence compared to the United States.
As Vice President and Senior Corporate Vice President, I spent nearly 20 years overseeing drug pricing cost analysis for major US hospital systems and physician groups. I found that large for-profit group purchasing organizations could cut prices by 10-20% compared to what these vendors could do on their own, with one exception: Canada.
I have supervised several analyzes in four Canadian provinces. Their prices were surprisingly better than our lowest prices, even though we bought billions of drugs each year, far more than them. Most importantly, among the G7 countries included in the Rand study, the price of drugs in Canada was found to be more expensive than in the UK, France and Italy.
Now is the time for President Biden to put things right. Let us not let Big Pharma continue to defraud the prices of American citizens while making deals with other countries. The decree is a step in the right direction. The next step is to get Congress to pass some real, major reform measures, such as most-favored-nation pricing and allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of all prescription drugs.
Jack Bernard was the first director of health planning in Georgia. A Republican, he is a past chairman of the Jasper County Commission.