Last week, the President announced his intent to implement a plan that would lower prescription drug costs in the United States. The actual policy side of how that will be carried out is still a mystery, though FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib's recent reforms are a step forward that will increase competition among manufacturers, and decrease review times for new medicines.
During his announcement, the President discussed a very interest topic: European free-riding on U.S. patents. As healthcare policy scholar Roger Bate explains, for a long time Europeans have been able to use American patents for far less cost than what Americans have to pay.
Germans, Brits, Italians, and everyone else in the EU pays far less, often around half of what we pay. Whining about it, which is what most American leaders have done for years, has done nothing. So what could the president do?
As of now, there is no specific proposal. Bate believes that the President's usual strategy for these kinds of issues may not be the best approach, though.
In his usual fashion he could draw some superficial or highly specific (and hence meaningless) price reductions by a Twitter storm against various EU nations. But to really have an impact he’d have to work in concert with manufacturers and support their withholding product sales into EU until higher prices were paid.
Pricing can be based on several factors, including ability to pay. Though pricing does not necessarily reflect this, Bate is not ruling out that is may be a better way to determine drug prices.
What he does advocate for is more transparency from the prescription drug industry, which will help consumers have a better idea of where exactly their money is going, and enable more fair pricing for those medications.
If the Trump administration can push transparent pricing and greater competition here, and push for wealthy foreigners to pay more and poorer Americans to pay less, then he will have achieved something significant. We shall see.
What specific things could the White House do to encourage more transparency and competition in the drug industry? Share your thoughts with us!