WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, today questioned pharmaceutical company executives about the high cost of prescription drugs, and highlighted the need for the value of a drug to be better reflected in its cost.
Dr. Cassidy is leading the fight to unrig the system and lower prescription drug costs for patients.
In May 2018 he released a white paper of ideas to make health care affordable again, and last year helped spearhead a new law eliminating pharmacy gag clauses, which kept patients from knowing when they could save money on their prescriptions by paying cash instead of with their insurance.
Key excerpts of Cassidy’s remarks in the hearing are transcribed below.
First, thank you for your innovation. As a doc, I’ve seen cures for Hepatitis C, and therapies to control HIV, other inflammatory conditions, cancers that 30 years ago when I graduated from medical school were either death sentences or were a ticket to a lifelong of morbidity and complications, so I thank you for that.
But I’ll also say that some of my patients could not afford the medicine, and for them it is as if the innovation never took place, and that is one concern.
Secondly, another concern is I think in some cases we don’t have value. Now Ms. Taubert, you suggested that PBMs are very effective negotiators. One drug that I want to bring up is Deuxis, which is a combination of over-the-counter, generic Ibuprofen and Pepsid. Now if I were to take this—and this is not the cheapest I could find it—and the doses that are used for Deuxis, it would cost me 200 bucks a month. But it lists at over $2,400 to $2,600 a month. Now, that doesn’t seem like very good negotiations on behalf of the PBM.
And if the taxpayer’s paying that money for something which over the counter is 200 bucks a month, and we’re paying $2,600 a month, it is almost as if the taxpayer has ‘stupid’ written on their face, which they shouldn’t. That is unfair.
This is not your medicine, but I use it to make the point that right now Medicare has a very limited ability to negotiate based on marginal value. And I think that is one of the fundamental problems in this.