WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a coalition of the nation’s leading organizations of medical and public health professionals—the American College of Physicians (ACP), American Public Health Association (APHA), Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), and American Geriatrics Society (AGS)—submitted a friend of the court brief supporting the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) Medicare drug pricing negotiation program and explaining that it will help improve patient outcomes and public health. The coalition is represented by Democracy Forward.
Drug prices are too high—so high, in fact, that they represent a barrier to care for millions of Americans. The rate at which patients forgo filling prescriptions due to drug costs is two to four times higher in the United States than in other developed countries, even though, according to the Congressional Budget Office, “nationwide spending on prescription drugs increased from $30 billion in 1980 to $335 billion in 2018.”
The IRA aimed to make certain prescription drugs more accessible to patients by requiring Medicare to negotiate prices on the most expensive drugs covered by Medicare Part D, which was created in 2003 and helps cover the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. The pharmaceutical industry subsequently launched a series of legal challenges to try to stop the drug price negotiation program from taking effect. In Merck v. Becerra, the pharmaceutical giant Merck is arguing that the negotiation process—a process in which they are not required to take part—is unconstitutional. In addition to their legal arguments, they and their industry partners in parallel cases also dubiously claim that price negotiations will harm patients and public health by stifling innovation in the drug industry.
The coalition’s brief, which includes heartbreaking anecdotes from physicians of their patients being forced to choose between affording basic needs or purchasing medications, underscores evidence that the current system of drug pricing, especially in Medicare, is bad for the health and financial well-being of patients and consumers in the United States. The brief also puts forth evidence disproving false claims that price negotiations will be bad for patients and public health. Contrary to Merck’s arguments, the negation process is unlikely to meaningfully threaten the development of new pharmaceuticals that advance public health. Notably, drug prices have been successfully negotiated in other government-run programs by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.
“People need to be able to afford their often life-saving medicine. Their ability to do so can be a matter of life and death,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “As the brief by many of the nation’s leading medical and public health organizations makes clear, the Inflation Reduction Act’s price negotiation program simply aims to correct a long-standing failure that harms public health: Medicare’s inability to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. Courts should base their decisions on facts, including the overwhelming evidence in our brief demonstrating that patient outcomes will be improved by price negotiations.”
“Any treatment can only be as effective as our patients’ ability to access it. Prescription drug cost is a significant barrier especially for our patients who suffer from multiple, complex chronic health conditions. Allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs with manufacturers could help to significantly reduce costs and improve compliance. Our nation’s older adults deserve to be able to access all of the health care services they need, including prescription medications,” said Omar T. Atiq, M.D., FACP, President, ACP.
“Health care is inextricably linked to access to affordable prescription drugs, and drug affordability remains a major public health challenge in this country. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) allows Medicare to directly negotiate with drug makers to reduce the cost of certain high-cost prescription drugs and most importantly, make drugs more accessible to patients,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of APHA. “Price negotiations are an important step toward a future where no one has to choose between filling a prescription and affording other basic needs. We urge the court to uphold the IRA’s price negotiation program.”
“Too many people in this country suffer serious complications because they cannot afford overpriced medications even when they have Medicare insurance,” said Eric B. Bass, MD, MPH, CEO of SGIM. “The plan to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for a few overpriced drugs is long overdue.”
“The American Geriatrics Society has long advocated that older adults have access to medically necessary, appropriate, and affordable medications,” said AGS CEO Nancy Lundebjerg. “Unfortunately, current drug prices remain a major barrier to obtaining needed prescription medications for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.”
Legal experts from Democracy Forward and medical and public health professionals are available for interview.