Prescription drugs: plans won’t impact prices much

While President Donald Trump has finally put some action behind his tough talk to lower “outrageous” prescription drug prices, his recent proposal will barely scratch the surface.

And it treats the pharmaceutical industry with kid gloves. Instead, it puts pressure on hospitals, doctors and benefit managers to suffer the pain of lowering prescription drug prices.

There is nary a word from the president or his team about the obvious strategy of simply allowing Medicare to negotiate volume discounts directly with drug companies to meet the needs of 41 million seniors. Such negotiating is still strictly prohibited by law.

There is nothing about supporting bipartisan bills by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republicans Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Charles Grassley, of Iowa. Those three powerful and prominent senators have called for laws allowing for importation of safe prescription drugs from Canada and creating greater access to generics by restricting payoffs pharmaceutical companies make to keep generics off the market.

Trump’s plans call for requiring benefit managers who negotiate with drug companies to pass along some of the saving to seniors. It sounds like a fine idea, but in reality, it simply puts market pressure on the benefit manager to split their discount and make up for it by raising health insurance premium prices.

Another plan calls for moving some medical treatments and sophisticated injection treatments to another area of Medicare where they would be subject to more negotiation, again, from a third party. In that case, the hospital and doctor mostly pay for the reduction in cost, not the pharmaceutical company.

Another plan would redistribute savings hospitals get from discounted prescriptions drugs because they serve a high number of poor patients. Again, the hospitals lose on this one.

So far, the pharmaceutical companies do not appear to be worried about the Trump proposals. The Nasdaq Biotechnology stock index was still on the rise Friday morning.

We urge the president and his health and human services secretary to embrace the Klobuchar bipartisan proposals to allow Canadian imports and remove anti-competitive rules about allowing generics on the market.

Ultimately, only allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription prices with the drug companies will bring significant change to the prescription drug monopoly.

— Mankato Free Press