Medicare price negotiations carry on as HHS responds to Big Pharma's IRA counteroffers

Medicare drug price negotiations under the Inflation Reduction Act are steadily progressing after drugmakers recently submitted their counteroffers to the government's initial pricing proposals.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has put forward its own responses to those counteroffers. In addition, the agency invited each company affected by the process to engage in “further discussions,” it said in a Tuesday press release.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is “proud to be negotiating in good faith with drug manufacturers to lower the prices of some of the most expensive drugs for people with Medicare,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.

The negotiation process officially kicked off Feb. 1 with the government’s first pricing offers. 

If the drugmakers and the HHS reach an agreement on a maximum fair price by the end of the negotiation period Aug. 1, the new prices will be published Sept. 1 and take effect starting in 2026.

Johnson & Johnson, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Novartis, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk and Amgen each have products subject to the negotiations.

Elsewhere in the drug pricing realm, President Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, are expected to speak on their joint efforts to lower out-of-pocket drug costs at a Wednesday event, multiple news outlets reported, citing White House officials.

The President last month laid out his mission to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for “at least 50 drugs” each year and to expand the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap that will apply to Medicare products in 2025 to “all private insurance” programs to benefit “all Americans,” he said in a White House fact sheet.

That plan was quickly slammed by prominent industry trade group the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which argued that the government is “rushing to make this bad law worse,” it said in a statement.