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The price of prescription drugs in the US is a hot topic – with Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump all agreeing that something must be done to curb the rising costs. In fact, all three presidential candidates have endorsed a change in the law that would allow Medicare – the primary federal health insurance program for seniors – to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. And they are not the only ones pushing for change. In April, the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) published a number of proposals for change, with the broad aim of keeping drug prices down and promoting generics. The coalition – which includes Walmart, and a number of healthcare providers and insurers – has focused their efforts on three main areas transparency, competition and value (1). Some of their proposed changes include:

  • releasing details of drug pricing before FDA approval.
  • disclosing the “true” R&D costs of a drug, including how much was funded by other entities, such as the
  • National Institutes of Health.
  • accelerating FDA approval of generics.
  • reducing the 12-year exclusivity period for biologics.

The pharma industry, however, is not happy. In particular, CSRxP’s proposals have faced fierce criticism from Robert Zirkelbach, Senior Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). In a scathing press release (2), he said, “These so-called market-based proposals are nothing more than a litany of new government regulations and mandates that would undermine the competitive market and empower government bureaucrats and insurance companies to make one-size-fits-all treatment decisions for patients.”

He argues that CSRxP’s proposals would only apply to the small share of healthcare spending that goes toward life-saving medicines while exempting the largest healthcare cost drivers, such as hospital charges. He adds, “Importantly, these proposals would not improve coverage and access for patients, despite recent data showing that out-of-pocket costs are soaring and that insurers are continuing to discriminate against patients with chronic health conditions.”

According to PhRMA, net prices for brand medicines only increased by 2.8 percent in 2015, when rebates and discounts negotiated by payers are factored in. CSRxP, on the other hand, claims that four of the top ten prescription drugs in the US have increased in price by more than 100 percent since 2011. It highlights a number of pharma companies, including Pfizer, which has apparently raised the prices on a number of brand-name products by 10 percent or more in the 2016 (3).

The debate continues, and is likely to rage on as the US presidential elections gather steam.

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  1. CSRxP, “Proposals for Change,” (2016). Available at:
  2. PhRMA Press Release, “CSRxP proposals would undermine competitive market, harm patients and innovation,” (2016). Available at:
  3. CSRxP, “The Facts About Rising Prescription Drug Prices,” (2016). Available at:
About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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