Avoiding the Price Trap in the Prescription Drug Debate

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  • 01/12/2007
The good news is that the House passed the price control bill by the slimmest margin of any of the pieces of legislation introduced by Democrats during the 100 horrors campaign. Not enough votes to override an expected presidential veto. Which puts pressure on the Senate.

The bad news -- or at least the takeaway from all this -- is that opponents of price controls did not stress enough just how many seniors and disabled people (40 million and counting) now have coverage where they did not have it before. And combined with patient assistance programs, it means that America has gone a long way to making medicines affordable for those who need and use them most.

This has gotten lost in the debate about prices...always does. And so it is important to hammer home the point that more people are getting their drugs paid for -- at $200 billion less than expected -- with more choices than ever before. This will prevent disease and save money in Medicare overall. People are suffering less and living better as a result. Every dollar of new drug consumption reduces spending for other services by about seven or eight dollars.. We need to make that investment and we need more valuable ad effective drugs to make a greater difference.

Which is what should be emphasized. Disease still is more expensive than any drug. And making people pay for the most cost-effective and valuable part of health care makes no sense at all. We need to spend more on medicines, not less and we need to find ways to encourage that spending and ensuring that people are using medicines right for them, the first time. Now that's one way to fill the donut hole: personalizing prescribing to reduce side effects and provide more timely feedback.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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