Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed and the immense harm to families and businesses is leading some public officials to propose outrageous “solutions.” For example, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a 2020 presidential candidate, suggests the federal government get into the business of manufacturing medications. And that begs one to ask, how’s that going for Venezuela where the government controls all aspects of business?
Extreme interference in the private sector isn’t right for Utah. Fortunately, our state legislators are considering their own ambitious, market-based measures to bring down prescription drug prices and if the legislation passes, Utah will become the leader in solving this urgent problem.
The secret ingredient to the plan is open and honest drug pricing. The pharmaceutical market isn’t working because costs are largely hidden, and government-granted monopolistic powers are abused. That means physicians and patients can’t make independent, informed decisions about prescription medicines.
There is almost no other market like pharmaceuticals. Can you imagine walking onto a car lot, signing the papers for a new Ford and driving away without asking the price? Of course not. What if Toyota was the only brand of car you could buy? But this is all happening with prescription drugs right here in Utah.
At a time when 1.6 million Utahns have at least one lifelong disease, patients need medicines to control symptoms, prevent disease progression and avoid complications. Yet most of the time when treatments are prescribed, neither the physician nor the patient knows the price of their medications. Some of them cost way more than the cars I mentioned earlier. For instance, the world’s best-selling pharmaceutical, Humira, costs over $50,000 per year, and most patients who use it will do so for life.
As a result, patients often reel from sticker shock when they pick up a prescription. And many people abandon their prescriptions and go without treatment because they can’t afford to pay.
Imagine the difference if cost were part of the decision-making process. Requiring drug companies to inform health care providers about pricing, as the Utah plan would do, will enable physicians to weigh cost and benefit and take advantage of equally effective but less expensive alternatives. This, in turn, would incentivize drug makers to offer their products at lower prices.
Other elements of the Utah plan are equally important. The proposal removes barriers preventing lower cost generics from reaching patients, while also ending today’s drug company kickback schemes, which are truly worthy of organized crime syndicates. No longer could providers be given financial benefits for using or prescribing certain products, typically the budget-busting, brand-name ones.
None of these changes would take choices away from patients or physicians. On the contrary, doctors and patients would gain information and independence to make the best possible clinical decisions.12 comments on this story
Not surprisingly, drug makers have reacted by pushing provisions that would only add administrative red tape to Utah’s health care system. Such proposals would only create unnecessary burdens on state regulators and health insurance providers. We urge policymakers to focus on real solutions that would actually bring down drug prices for families, local businesses, and consumers in our state. By re-engaging basic market forces, including comparison shopping and anti-monopolistic measures, Utah can lower prescription drug prices with no government price controls or other socialist interventions required. That’s good news for families, businesses and our market-based economy.