Who says bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., is dead? Okay, we did. But forget Wednesday. See, instead, just this past Tuesday.
While most folks were waiting for Michael Cohen's public hearings to get started, one particular hearing on rising drug prices, a recipe for ennui, actually set off fireworks. The tag team came from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). It seems they've both concluded Democrats and Republicans alike need affordable medication.
Rising drug prices is a big problem all across the country. Insulin is a great example of something diabetic patients need to live, and in some cases prices are rising by nth degrees. CNN reports that leading insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi have recently increased prices for their products by up to 500 percent. That's something these senators seem less than thrilled with, so they've started investigating these price hikes.
Even though Big Pharma is one of the strongest lobbying outfits in Washington, the Congress seems done letting executives hide behind "it's complicated." Sen. Grassley may have echoed the thoughts of many Americans, when he said Tuesday: "We've all seen the finger-pointing. Every link in the supply chain has gotten skilled at that. But, like most Americans, I'm sick and tired of the blame game. It's time for solutions."
When Americans are leaving drugs at the pharmacy because they can't afford them or skipping doses to ration their medicines, that's a problem. President Trump campaigned on lower drug prices, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed desire to push for lower prices. But what actually can be done, short of government control of prices, which would certainly stifle development of newer drugs?
First, demonizing pharmaceutical companies isn't the solution. And we certainly understand that companies spend billions of dollars each year on research and development trying to find new cures. But the issue remains that other countries pay much lower prices for the same exact drugs we consume here in America.
The solution is good old-fashioned free market competition, same as always. We need to start allowing Americans to import drugs from other countries like Canada or England. If a 10-milliliter vial of insulin costs $275 here and the same product is considerably cheaper just to the north, let consumers vote with their wallets, same as any other product. From TVs to beef.
Regulations are another issue at the FDA. The feds need to ease up on regulations for bringing generics to the market. There's no reason to keep affordable medicine out of the hands of patients.
Perhaps the most telling moment of testimony came from Mr. Wyden's exchange with Richard A. Gonzalez, CEO of AbbVie. The senator asked if AbbVie still makes a profit in countries like Germany where patients can pay on average 40 percent less than Americans for drugs. The CEO said his company still makes a profit there, despite lower prices. American consumers are probably not willing to pay more money for the same products than patients in other countries. Nor are they willing to subsidize cheaper drug prices overseas.
Tuesday's hearing may be part of the solution, believe it or not. Big Pharma has got to realize, by now, that it's in danger of getting more attention by our elected betters, no matter how much it spends in lobbying. To quote Sen. Robert Menendez, who's considered a friend of the industry: "If you don't undertake meaningful action to reduce pharmaceutical costs, policymakers are going to do it for you."
And nobody wants that. Least of all Americans looking for the latest, and most affordable, medications.
Editorial on 03/01/2019
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