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A View from PhRMA

Why are the US elections important for pharma?

Much of US healthcare policy is regulated by people in Washington. The policy makers write the laws around healthcare, but increasingly regulators are also making policy changes in regulation. In the US, we are seeing a shift with a lot more authority being given to agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to govern how healthcare operates in the country.

The elections do not only affect US companies; a lot of our members are companies based outside of the US. The pharma industry is a global business and the US market is the largest pharmaceutical market in the world.

What are the main points discussed by the nominees that could impact the industry?

There are a couple of policies that we are concerned about, including importing medicines from other countries or letting the government set the price of medicines in Medicare. At the same time, there is a continued focus on the need to develop new treatments and cures for patients in areas such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. We are in a golden era of medical innovation – the medicines coming onto the marketplace are better than ever before and we do think that there has been increasing recognition among policy makers that we need to do more to spur the development of new treatments. There has been a lot of bipartisan activity here in Washington, such as the 21st Century Cures legislation. The Obama administration has also pushed its Precision Medicine Initiative; the Vice President has the Cancer Moonshot; and Secretary Clinton has been vocal about the need for new Alzheimer’s treatments. We need to avoid public policies that make it harder for companies to develop these new treatments, which will ultimately make it harder for patients to access them. 

Our industry is concerned about proposals to import medicines from other countries – and it is something that has been rejected before because of concerns about the safety and quality of medicines coming from other counties. Some people refer to this as the re-importation of drugs, but this is not correct. Re-importation suggests that the medicines were initially developed in the US, sent overseas, and then brought back into the US. This is not what is happening – we are talking about medicines that may have been manufactured in a facility in another country entirely. There are a large number of medicines in this world that are not safe and effective, or manufactured to US standards.

We’re also concerned about the so-called negotiation with Medicare. Negotiation already takes place and Medicare is arguably one of the most successful government programs ever. Total costs are below projections, premiums are stable and satisfaction is very high. I would challenge you to list another government program that can claim the same thing.

What are your thoughts on higher price controls?

At PhRMA, we do not believe that the government should be setting the price of medicines. We think it works better to have a competitive system – and in some cases insurers are already negotiating discounts of 40 or 50 percent off of the prices of medicines.

If you look at the US market overall, even though new medicines are brought to the market every year, the overall share of our healthcare systems’ spending that goes towards medicines has been relatively stable.

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