Americans spend more on prescription drugs than any other country. One of the agendas of the Biden-Harris Administration has been to focus on lowering prescription drug prices and making them more affordable for American families. The same was the focal point of the talk given by President Biden at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on March 15, 2023. This move promises to improve public health as well as will provide economic respite to many Americans, who pay a considerable portion of their income for the life-saving medications they need.
President Biden underscored the role of healthcare professionals, nurses, and public health in improving the health of Americans but he emphasized the role drugs play. There is an urgent need to lower the price of prescription drugs in America. Generally, prescription drug prices increase during January or July each year.
The increases in both months of January (average $150 per drug or 10%) and July (average $250 per drug or 7.8%) for 2022 were greater than in previous years. Further, for approximately 1,200 drugs the price increases were 31.6% in comparison to the inflation rate of 8.5% between July 2021 to July 2022. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act offers a new requirement for manufacturers to pay rebates for drugs in Medicare Part D whose price increases exceed inflation.
Under the Act, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has also announced lowering the prices of 27 prescription drugs for Medicare Part B coinsurances. Medicare will now have the same power as the Department of Veterans Affairs to negotiate the price of drugs being prescribed.
In address at the UNLV, President Biden boldly committed that he not only wants to lower the price of Drugs for Medicare beneficiaries but all Americans. He said that he is obligated to do that in such a way that "no one making $400,000 or less will see a penny in federal tax raised as long as I'm president of the United States of America."
Commending President Biden’s statement, Dr Satheesh Kathula, a Clinical Professor of Medicine, told New India Abroad: “As an oncologist, I hear from many patients on a daily basis about the prohibitive cost of lifesaving cancer drugs. Several new cancer drugs cost more than $100,000 per year and the median annual income of Americans is around $36,000. This is certainly higher in the US when compared to other developed countries such as Canada or Europe. Interestingly, instead of going down, the cost goes up every year after a drug is launched and medications which are less effective may be more expensive.’’
“Generic cancer drug prices are high as well. There is little control of the government over the rising prices. I am really glad to know that President Biden is trying to reduce the cost of these drugs. Pharmaceutical companies coming forward to decrease the cost of insulin is a good sign and I hope more companies, especially in the field of oncology, will do the same. Inflation reduction act helps Medicare negotiate the prices with pharmaceuticals after certain time of launching, but if there is a way to control the prices soon after they come into the market would be ideal,’’ Dr Kathula, who is also the vice-president of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) added.
All these welcome changes are already beginning to happen in the arena of lowering prescription drug prices for Americans. Recently, Eli Lilly, the leading manufacturer of insulin in the United States announced that insulin will cost no more than $35 a month. Another manufacturer Novo Nordisk has also announced that it will lower the costs of insulin.
While President Biden’s remarks asserted that all support to be a capitalist, but at the same time being reasonable, fair, and just. The implication of his remarks was that pharmaceutical companies do not need to continue growing their greed. There is a need to putting a cap on it and pay a fair share of taxes and rebates to the consumers. The President concluded among cheers from the audience by saying, “We are the United States of America and nothing is beyond our capacity if we work together — so let's work together. God bless you."
Prof Manoj Sharma is Chair of the Social and Behavioral Health Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Maneesh Pandeya is a Fulbright Professor and PhD Scholar at Howard University in Washington DC.