The Presidential Policy Series: Prescription Drugs

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

The Presidential Policy Series share where the Democratic and Republican nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, stand on healthcare policy.

This presidential campaign season, there has seemingly been more discussion about the perceived health of each candidate than their actual views on healthcare. The focus on healthcare policy has been unfortunately limited, except for one issue—the rising costs of prescription drugs.

Last year, Turing Pharmaceuticals, a New York-based pharmaceutical company founded in 2015, ignited uproar when the company raised the price of a 62-year-old drug from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, overnight. The company’s CEO Martin Shkreli rose to notoriety not only for his tone-deaf defense of the price increase but also for his thoroughly unedifying testimony in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform earlier this year. More recently, the makers of the EpiPen have been under fire for raising the price of their life-saving allergy treatment from $100 to $600 over the course of the past decade.

Drug prices are rising to new highs despite displeasure from insurance companies, consumers, and lawmakers alike. In fact, pharmaceutical prices have risen nearly 10% on average in the past year. With the rising prices of prescription drugs, more patients are finding it challenging to manage their chronic conditions and pay for their necessary medications. According to a Consumer Reports survey, “one of out every four people facing higher drug costs were also unable to afford medical bills or medications; one in five said they missed a payment on a major bill.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that action is required to control prescription drug hikes, but they can’t quite agree on how to go about it. The 2016 candidates’ plans highlight the difference in party views.

Increased Regulation

In general, Hillary Clinton’s prescription drug plan calls for increased regulation. Clinton plans to use the government’s bargaining power to lower drug costs and promote competition. As part of her plan, Secretary Clinton will make drug companies accountable to lower costs. She plans to fine manufacturers that raise prices dramatically and vows to put a stop to excessive marketing and profiteering by denying tax breaks. Instead, she wants funds devoted to research and development and will incentivize companies to do so with taxpayer support.

To improve competition, Ms. Clinton wants to help bring more generic drugs to the market. Her plan states she will work with the FDA to clear out the backlog. Recently, application backlogs have led to the delay of up to three or four years before generic manufacturers can even win approval to make generic versions of drugs without patents. Hillary Clinton will also work to prohibit delay arrangements that protect patents and keep generics off the market, and she supports importing drugs from abroad.

Finally, Ms. Clinton plans to cap what insurers can charge consumers in out-of-pocket costs for medications. Under her plan, insurance companies will be forced to abide by a monthly limit of $250 on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Increased Competition

Most Republican’s had the same reaction to Clinton’s plan on prescription drugs, “more regulation, more controls, more restraints,” according to Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, which holds jurisdiction over many of the drug pricing issues.

In principle, Republicans are opposed to creating more government regulation. Rather than putting constraints on the private sector, the G.O.P. believes the key to solving the drug price issues is through initiatives that help to drive competition and improve the speed to which new drugs can enter the market.

Donald Trump echoes those beliefs. In his healthcare plan, he vows to remove the barriers to entry that prevent manufacturers from providing safe and cheaper products. Specifically, he notes that allowing consumers access to imported prescription drugs from abroad will bring more options to enhance competition. Mr. Trump also believes that to make any significant positive changes in addressing these issues, lawmakers need to step away from special interests.

While both candidates agree something must be done, the main difference separating Clinton and Trump is just how far they believe the government should go in controlling the costs of prescription drugs. We mind there are many causes behind the increase in prescription drug prices. We applaud efforts to make generics and prescription imports more widely available to consumers. One of the biggest impediments, however, to negotiating prescription drug prices is Medicare, which is prohibited from negotiating drug prices by an act of Congress.

Published by

Eric Conner

Eric Conner is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and co-founder of Healthify. At Healthify, he serves as the Chief Revenue Officer — managing sales and marketing operations. Eric works with healthcare companies to help them use Healthify in an effective manner that allows staff to track Medicaid beneficiaries' social and behavioral health needs and connect them with the appropriate community services for care. Before co-founding Healthify, he did community health work in east Baltimore. View all posts by Eric Conner

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