As we anticipated last week in Medicare Drugs on the Chopping Block, President Biden announced on Tuesday the first 10 drugs his administration will target for its aggressive and punitive price control regime.
One is Eliquis, a blood thinner created by Bristol Myers Squibb. “I am one of the 40 million preventing an early death taking Eliquis twice a day for 6 years. It works, where other medicines did not,” a Wall Street Journal reader wrote, commenting on an op-ed by the company’s retiring CEO, Dr. Giovanni Caforio.
“Eliquis is at the top of the government’s list not because its price is high, but rather because so many Americans on Medicare—more than three million—rely on it to reduce the risk of stroke and other conditions,” Caforio writes.
But expect fewer new drugs like this—an estimated 135 fewer over the 20-year life of drug patents—because the Innovation Reduction Act (IRA) strongly discourages companies from investing, developing, and testing new drugs. The Journal warned in a lead editorial about “unseen costs, which will include lives that could have been saved or extended by new treatments that were delayed or never developed.”
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced this week he has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a blood cancer he describes as “highly treatable.”
I know about this disease because my brother was diagnosed with the same cancer in 2016, and because of innovative treatments, including one developed by Bristol Myers Squibb, he is alive today and still playing golf in his home town of Tucson. Thank the Lord. We pray also for Leader Scalise’s recovery.
The treatment, called CAR T-cell therapy, is a “living drug” that engineers patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancers. It is a new generation of cancer treatment that required billions of dollars and a great deal of CEO and investor courage to bring to market.
We must not let these treatments die on the research table because companies can’t find investors to fund years of research and clinical trials to prove their safety and effectiveness. But that is what will happen if government price controls prevail—just as they have crushed the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe
Yet…The Biden administration is willing to give drug companies a complete pass on lengthy clinical trials for the latest Covid vaccine.
President Biden is asking Congress for more money to fund another Covid booster shot that he says, “is necessary, that works.” He added it’s “tentatively” recommended “that everybody get it” once the shots are ready.
“There are no human-outcomes data on this new shot, which the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve in the next two weeks. Is this our new drug-approval process?” asks Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Most flu shots don’t go through clinical trials, but the Covid shots don’t use the traditional vaccine platform that has been used for decades. Instead they deploy mRNA technology that has “a rate of serious adverse events as high as 1 in 556 doses,” he writes, with young people especially at risk
“Undermining the normal scientific and regulatory process erodes public trust.” Amen.
Finally, Biden appointees to the Federal Trade Commission are doing their best to block a merger between biotech giant Amgen and a small, innovative company based in Ireland, Horizon Therapeutics, that has developed innovative treatments for debilitating eye and gout diseases.
We are as concerned as anyone about anti-competitive mergers, but Amgen and Horizon have no competing products that would warrant FTC intervention. I explain in a Forbes column, FTC Attempts To Block Major Biotech Company Merger, why the FTC is so misguided with its speculative concerns about the mega-deal worth about $28 billion.
Like the price-control shakedown, the FTC’s action appears to be based more on punishment than on legitimate consumer protection.
Yes, patients need to be protected from high drug prices and monopolies. But the administration’s actions are misguided, advancing an agenda that violates the physicians’ creed to “First Do No Harm.”
Our colleagues are doing great work in highlighting these and other problems. A few resources:
American Action Forum landing page on the harm done by the IRA: https://www.americanactionforum.org/series/the-inflation-reduction-acts-drug-price-negotiation/
American Enterprise Institute: AEI scholars Kirsten Axelsen and Dr. Brian J. Miller will speak at a forum on Sept. 14, “The Continued Conundrum of Drug Pricing.” You can participate in person or virtually. The panel will “explore alternatives that would balance innovation with fiscal prudence while deploying the principles of managed care.”
Pacific Research Institute: Sally Pipes and her team at PRI have been doing an excellent job of explaining the threat to new and even current drugs. Here is a link to their landing page on Drug Pricing Research.
Paragon Health Institute: The Centers for Disease Control desperately needs oversight and reform at Paragon’s landing page on Public Health offers solutions.