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Obama government launches drug price crackdown

Published on 04/11/15 at 05:12pm
President Obama

President Obama has launched an ‘Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force’, aimed at tackling the spiralling cost of certain prescription medications in the US.

The subject has been at the centre of much debate, and has become one of the key issues in the ongoing presidential election candidates' campaigns. It is a leading concern for voters, according to opinion polls.

Figures from the US Health and Human Services department (HHS) suggest drug prices rose by an average of 12.6% last year. And a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 77% of Americans identify the increasing prices of prescription drugs as their primary health concern, and Democrat candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in particular have made it a priority.

Members of the newly formed Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force held a press conference where they promised “meaningful action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals.”

HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell also announced a daylong conference on November 20 to discuss speeding R&D times for innovative new treatments, and making them more affordable and accessible to patients.

Pharmaceutical executives, patient advocates, doctors and other health professionals, and insurers all received invites, in an attempt to include representatives from all sides of the debate. One issue up for debate will be the potential introduction of a new payment model in which drug prices are linked to efficacy, although no change in policy is expected to be announced at this time.

A HHS department statement says: “In general, the development of new, innovative medicines has been good for both patients and our economy. However, the high and growing cost of drugs has created hardship for families, employers and states. Specialty medications represent only 1% of all prescriptions but, in 2014, these medications resulted in over 31% of all drug spending.

“During the forum, we will hear from a broad range of stakeholders on opportunities to improve patient access to affordable prescription drugs, develop innovative purchasing strategies and incorporate value-based and outcomes-based models into purchasing programs in both the public and private sectors.

“We acknowledge this is a multi-faceted problem with no one solution, but there is a significant benefit – to all of us – of working together to find a solution.”

Joel Levy

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