As Democrats seek government control over prescription drugs, critics warn of consequences

(The Center Square) – Congressional Democrats from 15 battleground districts have asked U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in an effort to reduce costs.

Implementing medication price controls could be achieved two ways, through HR 3, or added into an overall omnibus spending bill estimated to cost $3.5 trillion.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., who led the group, argues that by having the government in charge of medication, negotiated prices will also be made available to the private sector, and doing so will bring down the cost of prescription drugs for everyone, not just seniors on Medicare.

A similar plan passed the House two years ago, but roughly 10 Democrats now oppose the idea, as do the majority of Republicans.

Americans For Prosperity, a grassroots advocacy organization opposed to the plan, argues it would lead to drug rationing and stifle the development of new drugs in the future.

AFP spokesman Geoff Holtzman told The Center Square, “A rationing scheme like H.R. 3 that lets the government tell patients what medications they can take is the wrong prescription to bring down the cost of drugs. Instead of putting government in control of our medicine cabinets, Congress should give Americans a personal option that increases competition and cuts the red tape that makes drugs expensive to begin with.”

Lawmakers should instead support a personal option that expands access to affordable medications through increasing competition and choice, and promotes innovation. The personal option, a bottom-up alternative to a government takeover of health care, would reduce drug prices while boosting access to medication, AFP argues.

In a 2019 report, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated that HR3 would lead the pharmaceutical industry to produce as many as 100 fewer products over the next decade. This would likely result in having less access to drugs and fewer medical breakthroughs, as well as price controls. The economic impact would reduce America’s annual economic output by between $375 billion and $1 trillion, roughly 10 to 30 times what the bill is projected to save, according to the report.

Critics argue price controls will lead to drug shortages. They also note there are less expensive options that would effectively reduce costs, such as reforming the FDA’s drug approval process, and ending “pay-for-delay” agreements. Under these agreements, brand-name drug companies have persuaded generic competitors to delay bringing their products to market, extending the length of time they can sell name brand drugs at higher prices.

Legislators have proposed 40 bipartisan reforms through H.R. 19 as well as the Wyden-Grassley drug reform proposal in the U.S. Senate.

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