|Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton|
Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his cohort, Rep. Elijah Cummings, have gotten a lot of attention for their proposed legislation to cut spiraling drug prices in the U.S. One person who seems to have noticed is Hillary Clinton, who says she will unveil her own plan this week for controlling the "cost of skyrocketing prescription drugs."
Clinton said on CBS Face the Nation Sunday rising drug costs are "something I hear about everywhere I go." The Democratic presidential front-runner didn't offer any details on what might be accomplished, the Associated Press reported.
Sanders, however, has. The legislation he and Cummings introduced this month would require drugmakers to make full disclosure of R&D and manufacturing costs, profits, and pricing in other countries, among other numbers. It also includes some solutions that are unlikely to get any traction in a Republican-controlled Congress, like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, something that President Obama left out of the initial law in an effort to win industry support.
Obama has since suggested that change himself. But on Friday, a center whose politics have often tracked along with the Obama administration perspective broke with the president on that approach in an effort to draw attention from presidential candidates from both parties, the AP reported. The plan from the Center for American Progress calls for consumer ratings of products and limits on what consumers could pay. However, it did not include any mechanism to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, an exclusion the center's healthcare expert said was done on purpose.
"We've been talking about Medicare negotiation … for many, many years and gotten nowhere," Topher Spiro, the center's health policy expert, told the AP. "We wanted to change the dynamic."
Whether any of the Republican candidates will give it any notice is yet to be seen, but the center's proposal was rejected by the industry, even without the Medicare negotiation mechanism, which suggests Clinton's plan is unlikely to be received any better. Industry lobbying group PhRMA told the AP that the plan would put arbitrary prices caps on drugs, hurt innovation and slow the development of needed treatments.
While the industry has been steadfast in its opposition to such ideas, poling from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests there is growing support from Americans across the political spectrum for some kind of action. The foundation this summer has reported that 86% Americans are in favor of requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose how they set prices, while 83% were for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The Medicare proposal is favored by 93% of Democrats but also drew support from 74% of Republicans and 83% of independents.
With the election still more than a year away, it is hard to know whether drug prices will become a hot-button item in the campaign. But with Clinton this week offering up her solution, it will draw some immediate attention, if from no other sector than Republican opponents criticizing her approach.