Medicare has not been able to negotiate drug prices.


US President Joe Biden, who is campaigning for re-election and is primarily focused on easing voters’ financial woes, on Tuesday launched a bid to cut the cost of certain prescription drugs — a move Big Pharma has pledged to the to continue the fight in court.

“Millions of Americans are being forced to choose between paying for the medicines they need to survive or paying for groceries, rent and other basic needs. Those days are coming to an end,” the Democratic president promised in a statement.

Biden later said in a White House speech that the pharmaceutical giants “hope the courts will do what congressional Democrats wouldn’t do: protect their exorbitant profits and prevent negotiations.”

Using new powers under last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping package of energy transition and social reform legislation, the US government has selected 10 drugs whose price Medicare, the health plan for people over 65, can negotiate.

Medicare has historically been unable to negotiate drug prices, which has resulted in drug costs in the U.S. being higher than “any other major economy in the world,” Biden said.

According to a study by the Rand Corporation, the United States pays, on average, 2.5 times more for prescription drugs than countries like France.

According to the US government, seniors spent a total of $3.4 billion out of pocket last year to buy the ten drugs on the list, including treatments for blood clots, diabetes, heart problems, psoriasis and blood cancer.

White House officials didn’t say how much cost reductions they hoped the negotiations would bring, but Biden cited the administration’s ability to enforce drug prices for veterans “50 percent below Medicare.”

Under the IRA, the federal government can continue to add additional drugs to its negotiation list each year.

The pharmaceutical industry has resisted Medicare price negotiations for decades, and several companies have already announced lawsuits against the procedure.

One of the treatments on the first list, the anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban), is used by more than 3.7 million Medicare beneficiaries.

The lab that makes it, Bristol Myers Squibb, says that Medicare beneficiaries who are prescribed this drug “can currently get it at a relatively low cost price, averaging $55 a month,” and claims that Biden’s initiative is enabling it prescribes the “in danger”.

The Johnson & Johnson group, which makes two of the drugs on the list, said the reform would “limit medical innovation, limit patient access and choice, and negatively impact the overall quality of care.”

– 2024 in view –

With the price change not scheduled to take place until January 2026, the immediate political benefit for Biden is uncertain.

The 80-year-old president, whose re-election struggles to attract much enthusiasm, is counting on announcements like Tuesday’s, as well as a move to freeze the price of insulin to $35 a month for many Americans, to bolster his campaign.

Often touting his unrelenting optimism, Biden again slammed the speech by Republican nominees for the White House — most notably former President Donald Trump — on Tuesday about the “decline” of the US.

“Better days are coming,” he promised.

(Except for the headline, this article was not edited by NDTV staff and is published via a syndicated feed.)

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