Thompson, Democrats Call on Drug Companies to Reduce Costs or Face Consumer Backlash
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday urged pharmaceutical companies to cut the cost of prescription drugs to avoid a consumer backlash that could result in price controls, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. In the keynote address to the Biotechnology Industry Organization's convention in Toronto, Thompson said the "ire of consumers" may push lawmakers to set price limits on prescription drugs. "People are going to start questioning why drugs are so much more expensive in the United States than in Canada, Mexico and Europe. That is going to add to the regulatory fervor," he said. He added that while he was not proposing price controls, drug makers could "avoid such an outcome" by lowering prices. In addition, Thompson said the pharmaceutical industry "should be pressing hard" for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. He also noted that the government is working with drug companies on several issues, including easing research and development of new drugs. That process "devours cash," Thompson said, adding that companies also spend a considerable amount of money during the FDA approval process. Thompson said the FDA is working to shorten the drug application review process and is in talks with drug companies about expanding a program under which drug makers pay the FDA a fee for expedited reviews of certain types of drugs. The Journal reports that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America declined to comment on Thompson's speech, saying it had not studied the "nuances" within the secretary's comments (Gertzen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/10).
Meanwhile, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) yesterday detailed a Democratic plan to control prescription drug costs during a meeting of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit Free Press reports. With pharmaceutical costs expected to increase 12% each year over the next decade, the senators said that drug expenses "nee[d] to be lowered for all Americans." Under their proposed legislation, pharmacists, individuals and wholesalers would be permitted to reimport U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada for individual use. "If consumers paid the same price as Canadians, the people of Michigan would spend $1.6 billion less per year than they now pay, and the country would pay $38 billion less," Dorgan said. The Democrats' legislation also would limit the tax deductions drug makers can take for marketing costs to the same amount that they receive for research and development costs; make it easier for generic drugs to enter the market; and permit states to extend drug discounts they receive under their Medicaid programs to non-Medicaid beneficiaries. Following the meeting, the senators led a group of seniors on a planned trip to Canada to purchase medications (Norris, Detroit Free Press, 6/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.