It's clear that the American people are heavily burdened with the rising cost of prescription drugs, and patients aren't the only ones that are affected. Physicians have become increasingly concerned with the impact of rising prescription drug costs on the industry, as well as on the national economy.
According to the 2016 Great American Physician Survey, "48.4% of physicians say they would like to see the next president focus on the rising prescription drug costs for patients."
This same report shows us just how bad of a deal we're getting as a nation: "For example, in the U.S., the arthritis drug Humira costs $2,669, yet in Switzerland the same drug costs only $822." We'll do the math for you -- that's a $1,847 difference.
According to an article in the New York Times in late 2015, "Per capita drug spending increased by more than $100" in 2014. That hike is certainly enough to pay notice to. Especially when Americans already pay about twice as much for prescriptions as other countries around the world.
So why are drug costs the fastest growing part of the nation's health care budget?
The price hike of Daraprim, a toxoplasmosis treatment used by AIDS patients, is just one example of the rising cost of prescription drugs. Martin Shkreli, the indicted former head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought Daraprim and hiked its price by 5,000% (from $13.50 to $750 per pill) overnight.
But this is just one example of what's driving high prescription drug costs.
John Rother of the National Coalition on Health Care, a nonpartisan research group, said that by far the biggest impact on rising prescription drug costs has come from traditional pharmaceutical companies raising prices across the board. In January, for example, Pfizer raised prices on nearly its entire portfolio. Most of the hikes are between 5% and 20%.
The presidential candidates are certainly including this issue in their campaigns, because America is demanding it. So, where do the U.S. presidential candidates stand on this issue? Let's take a closer look at what Trump and Clinton have come up with for solutions to this growing problem in America.
Trump discussed the topic of rising prescription drug costs, saying he would put his negotiating skills to work to lower prices. "When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we are going to negotiate like crazy," Trump said at a campaign event in New Hampshire back in February.
He insinuated that he doesn't back the high prices being inflicted on the American people, and plans to work hard to get them lowered if elected. Trump's campaign website outlines his health care reform proposal which includes the following elements:
- Institute a cap on employer-tax exclusion for health care.
- Seek medical malpractice reform.
- Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
- Expand employer-sponsored wellness programs.
His continued stance indicates that, since he has self-funded his presidential campaign, he wasn't taking any money from the drug companies as donations. Throughout his campaign, he consistently emphasized the money that drug companies were paying other candidates, and his purposeful decision to not accept offered donations.
Trump indicated that he also agrees with letting Medicare work with drug companies to discuss the high prices of prescription drugs, a stance which goes against traditional Republican beliefs.
Clinton is also passionate about the rising costs of prescription drugs. She gave a slightly more precise plan of her intentions, indicating a plan that would need drug companies to use some profits made on drug research and development, with hopes that this would bring down drug costs in the future.
- Defend the Affordable Care Act.
- Lower out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles.
- Reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
- Build on the Affordable Care Act and require plans to provide three sick visits without counting toward deductibles every year.
- Provide a new, progressive refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 per family for excessive out-of-pocket costs.
- Enforce and Broaden the ACA’s Transparency Provisions.
- Repeal the ACA “Cadillac Tax.”
Clinton also put forward that the monthly dollar amount that customers would be required to pay to insurance companies for medications would not exceed $250. Clinton's proposal would allow for more dialogue between Medicare and drug companies, by letting Americans import prescription drugs from Canada.
*To see a full comparison of how both candidates stand on health care issues, please visit https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/trump-vs.-clinton-on-health-care.aspx
In an article published earlier this year by Julie Rovner with Kaiser Health News, Rovner writes that "some ideas candidates and policymakers have suggested include limiting what drug makers spend on marketing to patients, something that is not even allowed in many other countries." Rovner continues, "others include making it harder for drug companies to delay generic drug competition and requiring drug makers devote a certain percentage of revenue to research and development."
With all of these suggestions having been proposed in Congress before, and none coming close to passage, Americans are still unsure if Trump or Clinton's plan to allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs would be a good way to lower prescription costs for Americans. After all, this is currently not allowed by the federal government, and hasn't been since 2003.
Making this change would be no easy feat for either of the candidates, and many voters don't appear to have faith that either has the best solution to addressing the issue of what some refer to as "pharmaceutical greed" – at least not yet.
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