Health Experts Discuss High Drug Prices And Potential For Reform At Virtual Penn Event


One of the panelists, scientist Mariana Socal, said about one in four Americans struggled to afford drugs. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics hosted a virtual seminar where panelists discussed high drug prices and opportunities for reform in the current political climate.

The seminar, entitled “Drug Pricing: Policy and Politics”, brought together Benedic Ippolito, senior researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, Rachel Sachs, professor of law at the University of Washington, and Mariana Socal, scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The event was moderated on Friday by Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton School professor Rachel Werner.

Speakers began the discussion by agreeing that while there is an extraordinary need to tackle high drug prices in the United States, reforms have stalled and been insufficient for years. Socal cited the statistic that about one in four Americans struggle to afford drugs and about three in 10 Americans who take prescription drugs said they did not take a prescribed drug as recommended because of the cost.

Sachs categorized current drug pricing reform efforts into three categories: proposals to address high drug costs, proposals discouraging financial incentives for drug companies, and policies targeting underlying high drug prices.

In the political arena, Ippolito said that two main issues need to be addressed: people with illness with available treatment who need to reduce drug prices, and people with illness without available treatment who have need to invent treatments. This forces politicians to prioritize and balance the two issues, Ippolito said.

Ippolito said that since financial incentives are important for those in the private markets who invest in medical innovation, he is confident that the reform will reduce pharmaceutical revenues, but he is not confident in the exact magnitude.

Sachs agreed with Ippolito and took issue with the idea that the direction of drug price reform was one-sided. Instead, she said expanding insurance, either specifically through drug coverage under Medicare drug coverage or the Affordable Care Act, would increase the use of drugs. prescription drugs, increase returns to the pharmaceutical industry and theoretically increase medical innovation.

Panelists also discussed policies to increase access to drugs for the Medicaid and Medicare populations, exploring funding and delivery solutions for hepatitis C treatment Sofosbuvir, marketed as Sovaldi, and the controversial drug. against Alzheimer’s disease Aducanumab, marketed under the name Aduhelm.

Sachs said Sovaldi is the perfect example of a breakthrough drug that treated a disease prevalent among disadvantaged Americans, but states faced a difficult funding problem and were unable to distribute the drug to all. patients. She said states would face a similar problem with Aduhelm, but questions remain about its clinical effectiveness.

Socal added that the Alzheimer’s drug on the market is clouded by its complexity due to its clinical trials and the Food and Drug Administration approval process. She said the problem lies with the state and will require a rebalancing of incentives between states and the federal government.

Panelists also discussed and debated state-level policies, including innovative payment models like a subscription model, or policies aimed at increasing transparency in drug prices for patients. They also discussed insulin – which has tripled in price over the past decade – and how to prevent a similar situation from happening with another drug in the future.

Panelists said that among the intricacies of drug pricing reform, there are definitive solutions that Congress and drug companies can and must adopt, although none will be easily implemented.

“In this complex pricing environment, it’s hard to predict what kinds of tradeoffs and all kinds of effects these policies will have,” Ippolito said.

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