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Americans support Medicare drug price negotiations


Patients prefer paying less for prescriptions over ‘unfair, anticompetitive behavior.’

ben franklin with red white pills rx drugs: © SecondSide - stock.adobe.com

© SecondSide - stock.adobe.com

Americans appear to support the federal government negotiating Medicare drug prices as much as pharmaceutical companies don’t.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week will announce the first 10 drugs on the list to negotiate prices. It’s a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in August 2022.

A new poll from West Health-Gallup shows CMS has public support.

A full 83% of Americans favor drug price negotiations between Medicare and the medicine makers. The supporters include 95% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 75% of Republicans.

Overall, 3% of respondents oppose the drug cost dickering, and 14% said they don’t know if it’s helpful or harmful.

“No matter who they vote for, Americans are suffering from the high costs of prescription drugs,” West Health President Tim Lash said in a news release. “The public’s overwhelming support for this policy, even as we head into a presidential election, makes one thing exceedingly clear: People know unfair, anticompetitive behavior when they see it and they want it to stop.”

Big pharma lawyers have been racing to courthouses to challenge the program. USA Today reported various lawsuits filed by AstraZeneca, Astellas Pharma, Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, the trade group PhRMA, and the U.S., Michigan, and Ohio chambers of commerce.

Patients vs. prices

The negotiations will affect more than 65 million Medicare participants.

West Health cited a 2020 study that found 112,000 seniors could die prematurely each year because they can’t afford prescription medication. When seniors don’t take their needed medicines, it causes health complications that cause Medicare to spend an additional $17.7 billion a year.

“Big Pharma’s high drug prices are killing us, fueling a public health and humanitarian crisis of its own,” Lash said in the news release. “Giving Medicare the power to negotiate is an important step, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that more reforms are needed. Anticompetitive behavior in healthcare is a burden for everyone, regardless of their politics.”

Savings vs. spending

The negotiations will involve huge amounts of money. West Health cited a Congressional Budget Office report that negotiating prescription drug prices could save $3.7 billion in the first year.

Savings will increase because there will be 15 more drugs selected for price negotiations for 2027, 15 more for 2028, and 20 more drugs a year for each year after. Tallied up, it’s a plan that could save $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to West Health

CMS timeline

CMS has until Sept. 1 to publish the list of drugs selected for price negotiations. Drug makers must submit data on those medicines by Oct. 2, and CMS also will allow public comments on the selections.

The drug makers will meet with CMS leaders this fall, and CMS will make its initial offer on maximum fair prices by Feb. 1, 2024. There will be time for price talks, then the negotiation period ends Aug. 1.

CMS will publish the negotiated prices on Sept. 1, 2024, and have a six-month period to explain the figures. The negotiated prices go into effect Jan. 1, 2026.

It was unclear how court actions might delay CMS’ schedule.

That drug costs how much?

This summer, KFF analyzed Medicare Part D drug spending for 2021. The top 10 costliest drugs accounted for $47.7 billion of a total of $215.7 billion spent for medicines. They were:

  • Eliquis, $12.6 billion
  • Revlimid, $5.9 billion
  • Xarelto, $5.2 billion
  • Trulicity, $4.7 billion
  • Januvia, $4.1 billion
  • Jardiance, $3.7 billion
  • Imbruvica, $3.2 billion
  • Humira (Cf) Pen, $2.9 billion
  • Lantus Solostar, $2.8 billion
  • Ozempic, $2.6 billion
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