Nov 22, 2020 10:50 AM

Kerpen: Drug prices still need watching after election

Posted Nov 22, 2020 10:50 AM

By NICK GOSNELL

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Phil Kerpen with American Commitment is concerned that federal price controls on medicines that could come soon, particularly if Congress ends up under full Democratic control, might save money in the short run, but would not save the most lives in the long run.

"The new treatment that doesn't get developed, that doesn't appear, that's a lot harder for people to see," Kerpen said. "I think that makes it a particularly insidious form of price control because you don't even know what you're missing out on. You don't even know what you're losing as a consequence, which makes it hard if we start going down that path."

There are ways to make drugs cheaper without stifling innovation.

"I do think there are a lot of things we can do to lower prices without having this negative long-term consequence," Kerpen said. "There is dysfunction in the market right now where the middlemen, the pharmacy benefit managers are able to divert rebates to their pocket, to profits, while charging seniors at the point of sale a copay based on the list price. They have an exemption from the federal anti kickback statute that allows them to do that."

Kerpen's concern is that the new crop of lawmakers and the potential new executive branch won't play as much hardball in trade as the current administration and so will undo some of the work that's been done in that regard, but what has been done with the COVID-19 vaccine candidates at least appears to be a good move in general.

"We should move towards being much more urgent on all of the new drugs that are developed, because, for the people who need that drug, or that treatment, or that cure, it's just as urgent a situation as this. They need it and it will make a huge difference in their lives. The idea that it's somehow okay for the normal process at FDA to take years and years, I think is wrong."

Kerpen acknowledged that the Senate races in Georgia and who controls the chamber after that could mean a lot toward what sort of questions a new FDA head might be asked under a new administration, as well.