Expert Panel Discussion Advocates for Regulation, Competition of Prescription Drugs

Federal regulations may help curb the high cost of prescription drugs.

The Alliance for Health Policy recently held a panel discussion that advocated for increased regulation of prescription drug costs to ensure that patients have access to life-saving treatments, according to a press release from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

David Mitchell, the president and founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, discussed his struggle to afford myeloma treatments during the panel. Mitchell said he requires life-long treatment that costs $440,000 for 1 year, but the treatment changes often due to drug resistance.

"I am completely dependent upon innovation and new drugs for my survival," Mitchell said during the panel. "But drugs don't work if people can't afford them."

The panel said that some patients approach drug costs by reducing medication or skipping treatment altogether; however, these methods risk patients getting sicker and requiring even more medication, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The experts all agreed that the only sustainable solution to lower drug costs is to implement federal regulation, public action, and additional competition, according to the release.

Mitchell said that if Congress allowed Medicare to negotiate with prescription drug costs, it would remove the uncertainty of how much insurers pay for certain drugs.

During his talk, Mitchell also cited that the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act would ensure that generic and biosimilar manufacturers can enter the market. This law would block branded manufacturers from preventing access to samples that are required for testing, according to the release. These actions have significantly slowed down the emergence of lower-cost drug options.

Hon Henry Waxman, a former House Rep and chairman of Waxman Strategies, suggested that federal laws should be altered to let states control their own Medicaid formularies. Waxman also said that annual increases inflate drug costs and allow branded manufacturers to pay generic manufacturers to slow entrance into the market, according to the release.

"We know the American public is outraged at the high price of drugs," Waxman said during the discussion. "We know that people are being overcharged so they can't even afford them."

The experts also highlighted the efforts FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, has taken to reduce drug costs, including expediting a backlog of generic drugs to be approved.

"In the past, the FDA said they were not going to look at those issues, but the new commissioner recognizes there is a role for FDA in dealing with high prices," Waxman said.

Steve Miller, MD, MBA, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts, reported that increasing competition may be an effective way to combat high drug costs.

According to the discussion, Express Scripts found that introducing 11 biosimilars that cost 30% less than the reference product would elicit $250 billion in savings. Miller suggested that lower costs can result in innovation, according to the panel.

"Prescription drugs are the most frequently accessed part of the health care system," said Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. "You go to the pharmacy once a month; you don't go to the hospital once a month."