KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Perspectives: The FDA Can Only Do So Much To Curb High Prices — It Needs Help

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Bloomberg: The FDA's War On (Expensive) Drugs
One of the FDA’s main jobs is to ensure that the drugs Americans take are safe and effective. Whether they’re affordable has always been someone else’s problem. Enter Scott Gottlieb, the new commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who wants to reduce drug prices significantly. It’s a worthy cause, and his strategy -- to enable greater competition from generic drugs -- makes sense. But the FDA can’t do it by itself. (7/31)

The Hill: How Do You Get Lower Cost Drugs? Give The FDA A Bigger Stick
President Teddy Roosevelt famously said of foreign policy, “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” This advice can also apply to regulation. It is important for regulators to tread lightly, but they should also have the tools to punish bad actors who are clearly manipulating the market. Regulation can be a tool to strengthen competition and address important health and safety concerns, but it can also be abused to limit access to the market. Therefore, lawmakers and regulators must regulate wisely and be careful of unintended consequences. As then-Judge Robert Bork put it 30 years ago, “[p]redation by abuse of governmental procedures, including administrative and judicial processes, presents an increasingly dangerous threat to competition. (David Balto, 7/27)

Los Angeles Times: If Trump Wanted, He Could Take Steps To Lower Soaring Drug Prices
After last year’s election, Donald Trump declared his determination “to bring down drug prices.” As president, he’s now reportedly cooking up an executive order aimed at cutting regulations for drug companies, which probably won’t do much to lower prices but should please industry execs. It’s worth asking, though: If Trump really wanted to bring down drug prices, could he? (David Lazarus, 8/1)

The Hill: Who Is To Blame For Skyrocketing Drug Prices?
Across the board, drug prices are soaring. Even the cost of cancer medications are so high that some patients are delaying cancer treatments or skipping them altogether. But who is most responsible for higher drug prices: pharmaceutical companies or pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)? That depends on whom you believe. (Lynn R. Webster, 7/27)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: The Price Of Crossing The Border For Medications
Canadians are used to paying more for identical products sold south of the border. Hockey equipment, perhaps paradoxically, can sometimes cost up to 18% more up north; and there are similar price differences for toiletries, books, and electronics. There are many reasons why goods cost more in Canada than in the United States, regardless of the value of the Canadian dollar, including higher costs of doing business (Canada has a higher minimum wage), lower purchasing power, and tariffs, among others. (Michael Fralick, Jerry Avorn and Aaron S. Kesselheim, 7/27)

Bloomberg: Biotech Is Only Expensive When You Follow The Crowd
Biopharma asset prices are "pretty high," according to Sanofi's CFO. He's not the only one who thinks so. His comments as Sanofi released its second quarter earnings echo those of a number of other large pharma executives. But those gripes don't always line up with market reality. A change in strategy and attitude might be needed for companies claiming sticker shock. (Max Nisen, 7/31)

Morning Consult: State Medicaid Programs Should Not Deny Hepatitis C Drugs
Across the globe, people will mark World Hepatitis Day on July 28 to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, call for better access to prevention and treatment programs, and advocate for greater government action. Here in the United States that includes bringing to light the hundreds of thousands of people living with hepatitis C (HCV) who could be cured of their disease in as little as two months by a pill taken just once a day. However, most state Medicaid programs are refusing to pay for their treatment. Claiming high drug costs, these states are restricting access to only those with severe liver damage or who have abstained from substance use. This forces people to become sicker than necessary, violates current Medicaid law, and will cost state Medicaid programs more in the long run. This rationing of treatment needs to be stopped. (Michael Ruppal, 7/27)

Bloomberg: AstraZeneca Shows The Peril Of Going All-In
When a failed drug trial moves the market caps of three different pharma companies by an aggregate $20 billion, you know it's important. AstraZeneca PLC's big effort to gain ground in the red-hot market for immune-boosting cancer drugs -- a combination of its already approved Imfinzi and a second immune-oncology (IO) drug tremelimumab -- was revealed as a flop in treating lung cancer Thursday morning. This trial -- code-named "Mystic" -- was always something of a Hail Mary. But it was one Astra desperately needed to work. (Max Nisen, 7/27)

Kansas City Star: Free ‘Big Pharma’ Screening Examines Drug Profit Motive
What is a small business owner in the U.S. to do when an employee requires a prescription medication that costs more than their annual salary? Too many employees like that means you’ll be locking your doors soon. Richard Master, CEO of a family-owned factory, faced such a dilemma when his company’s health care costs were rising by the equivalent of $4 per hour each year. This meant that there wasn’t much room for increasing wages. (Ray Slavin, 7/27) The Prescription Drug Scam
Several years ago, I learned the prescription drug I was taking cost three times more here than it did in Canada. I wondered if it was the same for all prescription medications. It was. And still is. I also learned why pharmaceutical companies charge so much more here than in other countries — because they can. (Pat Nash, 7/29)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.