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HHS Chooses 10 Medications for Medicare Price Regulation

The Biden administration has selected 10 drugs that will be part of the first round of price negotiation through Medicare. These drugs include Xarelto, a blood thinner, and Type-2 diabetes drugs Jardiance and Januvia. The selected drugs treat a range of conditions from arthritis to autoimmune diseases.

This announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services marks a significant moment for Democrats’ efforts to lower drug prices and utilize government purchasing power. The drug-negotiation program was authorized by Democrats in Congress and will be implemented through the Inflation Reduction Act.

Under this program, negotiated prices for these drugs will take effect in 2026. The negotiation process will occur this year and continue into 2024, with the final prices being published in the fall, just before the presidential election. Additional drugs from Medicare Part D and the doctor-administered Part B program will be selected in subsequent years.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “For far too long, pharmaceutical companies have made record profits while American families were saddled with record prices and unable to afford life-saving prescription drugs. Although drug companies are attempting to block Medicare from being able to negotiate for better drug prices, we will not be deterred.”

The selected drugs accounted for $50.5 billion in total prescription drug-benefit spending, or about 20% of total Part D costs between June 1, 2022, and May 31, according to HHS.

Drug companies that refuse to participate in the negotiation process face an excise tax or the withdrawal of their medicines from Medicaid and Medicare coverage.

The pharmaceutical industry and allies have filed lawsuits seeking to block the program, arguing that it amounts to extortion and violates constitutional rights. They also claim that government price controls will hinder their ability to invest in research and development.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the drug-negotiation program will save taxpayers $100 billion through 2031 while slightly reducing the number of new drugs coming to market.

However, critics argue that similar policies in other countries have resulted in fewer treatment options and longer wait times for patients. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns about potential access to treatments.

Despite the challenges and pushback from the pharmaceutical industry, the program remains a cornerstone of President Biden’s efforts to lower drug prices and promote economic policies that benefit working Americans.

After this first round, the government will select additional drugs for price setting in the coming years.

While the program has its supporters and critics, the aim is to make medications more affordable for seniors and ensure that healthcare remains accessible to all.

Unique Perspective: The selection of drugs for price regulation through Medicare is a major step towards addressing the rising costs of prescription medications. By leveraging the bargaining power of the government, the Biden administration aims to make crucial drugs more affordable for millions of seniors. While there are legal and ideological debates surrounding this approach, the focus should ultimately be on ensuring access to life-saving medications without burdening families with exorbitant costs.

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