FiercePharmaPolitics—Biden, Sanders split on drug pricing specifics; Trump admin sends 'principles' to Congress

Democratic presidential nominees are split on approaches to drug pricing, and the Trump administration has sent some of its priorities to Congress. (Pixabay)

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect how drugmakers operate.

As Democrats around the country decide on who to nominate for the presidential election, the two remaining contenders have differing views on how best to address U.S. drug pricing, Politico reports. Sen. Bernie Sanders is more aggressive than former VP Joe Biden on government pricing negotiations, for instance, as Sanders’ proposal gives more leverage to the government during those negotiations.  

The candidates also aim to utilize international reference pricing, but again, Sanders’ plan goes further by proposing to implement lower reference prices across the drug system rather than on a subset of the market, as Biden proposes, Politico reports.

The novel coronavirus pandemic was a central topic at Sunday night's debate, and Sanders said drug companies are aiming to “make a fortune” on the crisis. That prompted prominent biopharma Twitter user Andy Biotech to push back. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the attention in the media and government, there still have been some drug pricing deliberations in Washington. The White House last week sent “principles” for drug pricing reform to lawmakers in Congress, a spokeswoman told Reuters. The administration’s priorities include an out-of-pocket cap for Medicare Part D patients, plus limits to price increases and more drug price negotiating incentives for insurers. 

Meanwhile, GoodRx has published its latest ranking of the most expensive drugs in the U.S.

Topping the list is Novartis’ gene therapy Zolgensma, which is a one-time treatment for spinal muscular atrophy. The med costs $2.125 million, but thanks to its clinical data, it actually scored backing from cost watchdog ICER despite its high price. 

Next on the list—but nowhere near Zolgensma’s price—is Amryt Pharma’s Myalept, which costs $855,678 per year, according to GoodRx. The drug treats complications of leptin deficiency in patients with congenital or acquired generalized lipodystrophy. 

RELATED: Novartis slaps $2M-plus price tag on newly approved gene therapy Zolgensma—and cost watchdogs approve 

Another gene therapy ranks third on the list of most expensive U.S. drugs. Spark’s Luxturna treats an inherited disease that can lead to blindness. It’s a one-time treatment that costs $850,000. 

Acrotech Biopharma’s Folotyn and Alexion’s Soliris round out the top five with annual prices of $799,067 and $678,392 per year, respectively.