Nowadays, it seems that it would be difficult for the majority of Americans to agree on anything. Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing.
Along partisan and ideological lines, Americans accept that the cost of life-saving drugs is out of control. Given the rising number of Americans who trust these drugs and their costs, this sentiment is understandable.
According to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month, 62% of all Americans say they take at least one prescription drug, while 83% say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. It is not surprising that Americans feel this way, given that the cost of branded drugs has more than tripled in the last 10 years, according to the AARP Institute for Public Policy.
These price increases are justified by the fact that these price increases are justified in order to cover the enormous research and development costs involved in new medicines and treatments. The problem with this argument is that it neglects the amount of research funded by taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health that help develop these drugs and treatments. Moreover, it does not take into account that even older medicines without up-to-date patents are also experiencing a huge rise in prices due to lack of competition.
The cause of this prescription drug crisis is clear. Branded pharmaceutical companies are putting profits ahead of public health, and patients are paying the price. It’s time for Congress to limit the ability of these companies to enrich their patients ’backs.
One way to do this is to make it easier for generic and bio-based medicines to enter the market. These medications are as safe and effective as brand-name prescription drugs, but cost less. According to the Association for Accessible Medicines, the average coordination of brand names is $ 55.82, and the average generic coordination is $ 6.61. In fact, 93 percent of generic prescriptions are filled for $ 20 or less. Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies are doing everything they can to prevent generics and biosimilar from reaching the market.
Drug addicts are allowed to hold patents on new drugs that they create for 20 years, as compensation for the cost of research and development that these treatments do. This gives drug manufacturers exclusive rights to sell a drug within 20 years. The problem is that drug companies are constantly adapting the drug formula to extend the patent beyond the first two decades, creating what is known as the “patent scrub”. This practice gives them a longer monopoly and puts them out of the market.
Another problem facing generic and biofuel manufacturers is that the funding mechanism to accelerate the acceptance of safe and effective drugs will expire on October 1st. it ensures the safe acceptance of generic medicines, and the fees collected through the Bioorganization User Fee Act (BsUFA) cover 60 percent of the bioorganization approval program.
The good news for consumers is that the House passed a version of the Food and Drug Change Act. The Senate should proceed quickly.
Increasing the number of generic and bio-like products entering the market is a key way to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for patients, and is also very popular. The aforementioned Kaiser Family Foundation survey also found that 88 percent of Americans support policies that make it easier to bring generic drugs to market.
Funding from GDUFA and BsUFA strengthens the FDA’s ability to more readily accept and market generics and biosimilar. It also provides the FDA with resources to improve the frequency and quality of drug inspections. The Home version of these bills has the necessary language, which would add more surprise inspections and require greater internal coordination by the FDA to prevent quality problems from causing drug shortages. Moving these bills quickly will give patients a greater layer of protection and confidence in the safety and availability of life-saving medicines.
It is rare for Congress to be able to lower consumer drug prices and improve public health by advancing a nationwide policy with broad bilateral support. Re-authorizing these user quota agreements is not the only step Congress needs to take to address the rise in the price of prescription drugs, but it is a necessary and achievable step that should be done in a timely manner.
Ken McEldowney is the executive director of Consumer Action, a national organization for members of consumer advocacy and education in San Francisco.