More sunlight sought on spiking drug prices

Andis Robeznieks
Senior Staff Writer
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The skyrocketing costs of individual drugs “are not isolated phenomena, but symbolic of a systemic crisis of drug affordability with devastating consequences,” the AMA Residents and Fellows Section (RFS) noted in one of four resolutions that led to new policies aimed at bolstering the transparency of prescription costs.

Specifically, the new policies adopted by the AMA House of Delegates (HOD) at the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting call for drugmakers to give public notice and justification if they plan to increase the wholesale price of their products by more than 10 percent a year, allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate pharmaceutical pricing for the medications they cover, and to disclose manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in direct-to-consumer drug advertising. An existing policy relating to the accessibility of naloxone was modified to emphasize the need for the opioid-overdose antidote to be affordable.

“Taken together, these policies would bring much needed transparency to drug pricing and provide a clear benefit to consumers struggling with exorbitant costs,” said AMA President-elect Barbara L. McAneny, MD. “There seems to be no logic—or warning—to these price spikes. In the case of naloxone, communities are struggling to afford a life-saving treatment. Sunlight is needed to help respond to price shifts, because if the pricing trends continue, patients and communities will not be able to afford life-saving drugs.”

In just one year alone, from 2013 to 2014, prices for 1,200 existing generic drugs increased an average of 450 percent. Prices for 73 existing brand-name drugs have increased 75 percent since 2007, and of the 12 oncology medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2013, 11 were priced at more than $100,000 a year, according to data cited by the AMA-RFS.

The reference committee, in its report, said that it “heard overwhelmingly supportive testimony” on the resolution submitted by the AMA-RFS that called for drug price transparency. The resolution also called for the AMA to support legislation authorizing the U.S. Attorney General or Federal Trade Commission “to take legal action to address price gouging by pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

The reference committee said in its report that it “strongly believes there is a need to address price gouging and anti-competitive behaviors by pharmaceutical companies.”

The AMA created the interactive website, TruthInRx.org,  where patients can share their personal stories of how rising drug prices affect their personal and financial health.

Read more news coverage from the 2017 Annual Meeting.

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Oct 19, 2017
Congress urged to pass measure that would fund cost-sharing reduction payments, offer more health plan options and promote enrollment outreach.