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VIEWPOINT: Drug pricing provisions are popular. It’s time to pass them.

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According to recent polls, allowing the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices is the most popular provision in the reconciliation package. Here in Delaware, 88% of voters support the provision.

Karen Hartley-Nagle | PHOTO COURTESY OF NCC

Passing these drug pricing reforms through reconciliation is the best chance Democrats have had in years to deliver lower drug prices for patients. Luckily Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper (D-Del.) support the drug price reforms in Build Back Better, now we need them to deliver relief to Delawareans and pass the reconciliation package with those drug price reforms. 

As written, these provisions would finally give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to help lower the price of the most expensive prescription medications. In Delaware, this reform is vital, as Medicare beneficiaries make up over 20% of the population, the sixth highest enrollment rate in the country. 

Additionally, over 60% of Medicare-dependent Delawareans are also standalone Part D beneficiaries, which means they pay for their drugs based off of the list price set by drug manufacturers. Some are forced to pay upward of $15,000 a year for high-priced drugs. The drug pricing reforms that Democrats in Congress have agreed upon would cap out-of-pocket spending on prescriptions for Medicare Part D recipients at $2,000 a year. By passing a reconciliation package that includes these provisions, Sens. Coons and Carper would have a direct hand in expanding access to lifesaving medications and improving health outcomes for their constituents.

Many Democrats have worked extremely hard to achieve these benefits for the American people, including Delaware’s favorite son, President Joe Biden, who called upon Congress to lower prescription drug prices. However, Big Pharma is spending millions hoping to weaken the drug pricing provisions currently in front of Congress and prevent them from passing through reconciliation.

Ironically, Big Pharma is burning large amounts of cash to convince Americans that pharmaceutical companies won’t be able to afford new research and development if these reforms pass. Between July and November, one of the industry’s primary lobbying firms, PhRMA, and other lobbying organizations spent more than $26 million on television and digital ads alone to attack price negotiations. These campaigns target constituents, who receive intimidating mailers and advertisements produced by Big Pharma to convince Americans that drug pricing reforms will limit their access to medications. 

The reality is the drug pricing reform compromise will expand access for patients and reward companies that develop genuinely innovative drugs. One in three American adults cannot take their medications as prescribed because of the price, the reforms in Build Back Better will lower those prices and increase access. Pharmaceutical companies will be rewarded for true innovation by being given the power to set launch prices and giving companies up to 13 years on the market before they are subject to price negotiation. This will ensure new and unique medications are rewarded for their increased benefit to American health as opposed to drugs that prolong patents by mimicking drugs already on the market.

There’s no doubt Big Pharma will continue spending in an effort to convince Americans that drug pricing reform will limit access and innovation, but I’m confident our senators will reject their efforts. Sens. Carper and Coons support the drug pricing reform in Build Back Better, and Delawareans like me are counting on them to follow through and deliver lower drug prices by supporting the agreed-upon drug pricing provisions and passing them through reconciliation.

Karen Hartley-Nagle is the president of New Castle County Council.

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