Biden fires new salvo in war on prescription drug costs
August 29, 2023 09:37 PM
US President Joe Biden, who is campaigning for reelection with a heavy focus on easing voters' financial woes, on Tuesday vowed to lower the price of 10 drugs used to treat serious illnesses, drawing protests from some pharmaceutical companies.
While "the pharmaceutical industry makes record profits, millions of Americans are forced to choose between paying for medications they need to live or paying for food, rent, and other basic necessities. Those days are ending," the Democratic president pledged in a statement.
The United States pays on average 2.5 times more for prescription drugs than countries such as France, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.
The reform announced Tuesday is part of the broader Inflation Reduction Act -- a vast program of energy transition and social reforms.
The White House has initially chosen 10 drugs for which Medicare, the health insurance scheme for people over 65, will now be able to negotiate the price.
This has not been the case until now, unlike health insurance plans in many rich countries.
According to the US government, in 2022 senior citizens had to spend a total of $3.4 billion out of their own pockets to buy these treatments, which are prescribed for blood clots, diabetes, heart problems, psoriasis and blood cancers.
One of these treatments, the anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban), is used by more than 3.7 million Medicare beneficiaries.
The laboratory that manufactures it, Bristol Myers Squibb, says that Medicare beneficiaries who are prescribed this drug "are currently able to get it with relatively low out-of-pocket costs at an average of $55 per month," and claims that Biden's initiative puts that "at risk."
The Johnson & Johnson group, which produces two of the drugs affected, said that the reform would "constrain medical innovation, limit patient access and choice, and negatively impact overall quality of care."