Issues

This year, 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. For over 600,000 of them, that diagnosis will prove fatal. But there’s hope on the horizon. More Americans are surviving cancer each year, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society. The cancer death rate declined precipitously between its peak in 1991 and 2016. Absent that decline, 2.6 million more cancer patients would have died during that period. By one estimate, 73% of recent survival gains are due to...

*Featured in Kaiser Health News Morning Briefing* Today, Type 1 diabetes patients pay twice as much for insulin as they did in 2012. This is outrageous — but drug companies aren’t to blame. The problem is a dysfunctional supply chain that benefits everyone except patients. In today’s system, insurers hire third-party firms, known as pharmacy benefit managers, to manage drug plans. These PBMs negotiate with drugmakers and have the power to decide which drugs are covered by each plan. Each year, manufacturers dole out $150...

In response to the problem of rising list prices for drugs, elected officials continue to propose counterproductive reforms. Whether it is importing drugs from Canada or indexing U.S. drug prices to the prices charged in other countries, these policies will make the current bad situation worse because they fail to understand the disincentives that are the root cause of the problem. Until now. A proposal by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, if implemented, would meaningfully improve the pharmaceutical market. The...

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar just released a sweeping proposal that would drastically change how Medicare pays for advanced cancer therapies and other potent medicines. The plan relies on foreign price controls to reduce drug spending by $17 billion over five years. Although drug spending may decline, the plan could increase health care spending elsewhere, as patients inevitably lose access to medicines. So while the savings is questionable, the negative health impact on patients is certain. Sec. Azar ought...

Congress is poised to consider a bill that would allow Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada. The bill’s authors, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), label their effort as a bipartisan push to “help Americans who struggle to pay exorbitant prices for medication.” It’s noble of lawmakers to tackle prescription drug costs. Eight in ten Americans are concerned about the price of medicines, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But the Grassley-Klobuchar bill isn’t the right solution. While it...

By Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D. and Jeff Stier Trump administration officials keep searching for solutions to rising prescription drug prices, which are increasing faster than inflation. "Drug makers and companies are not living up to their commitments on pricing. Not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!" President Trump tweeted on Jan. 5. Most of the administration's suggested remedies have been threats or the imposition of various types of price controls. On Thursday, Jan. 31, Department of Health and...

By Mia Zaharna, MD and Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D. Insomnia is a common and often frustrating sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. It can adversely affect your health, work performance, and quality of life. It can also be hard to treat, even by experts — but help, in the form of technology, is on the way. Although...

In mid-January, three Democrats — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, and California Rep. Ro Khanna — introduced legislation that aims to reduce prescription drug prices. Their plan would essentially peg U.S. drug prices to those in five foreign countries where prices are typically lower because their governments forcibly control them. It would also open our borders to imported drugs from Canada and other countries. Their proposal is painfully shortsighted. It would slow pharmaceutical innovation and expose patients to dangerous counterfeits in...

President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders don’t agree on much. But they both believe in price controls. Both men recently introduced separate proposals to impose price controls on prescription drugs. Though both men are likely well-intentioned, their plans are deeply misguided. Both proposals would discourage drug research and reduce access to medicines. The Trump administration’s proposed rule, released this fall by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, would change the way Medicare pays for most cancer drugs and other medicines...

In one of his first acts, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that will change how medicines are purchased in California. With visions of big-box store discounts dancing in his head, Governor Newsom has established a bulk program that will now purchase drugs for the state’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal). The Governor believes that his executive order will create significant health care savings for the state, but he will be sorely disappointed. Imposing more government mandates and increasing bureaucratic control of the...

Too often, drug pricing analyses do not shed light on how much drug expenditures are actually increasing because these studies examine the wrong price. The latest iteration is an analysis by Rx Savings Solutions. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rx Savings Solutions documented that dozens of drug makers raised the list prices on hundreds of medicines for 2019. The average list price increase was 6.3%. Based on these findings, many people might reasonably conclude that patients will be paying more for...

On Dec. 18, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act. The bill would create an Office of Drug Manufacturing to produce and sell generic medications. Warren hopes this government entity would solve "market failures" — her term for generic drug shortages and steep price hikes on off-patent medicines. The plan is absurd. The federal government has no business operating a drug manufacturer. If federal officials want to expand access to generic drugs (a worthy goal) they should harness the power of free markets. Within...

Despite the constant barrage of negative news, this is an exciting time for patients. Truly innovative medicines and gene therapies are under development. New gene therapies are particularly exciting because these therapies do not just treat diseases – they often cure them by fixing underlying genetic defects, frequently with only one dose. There is great optimism that these fundamentally new therapies will, ultimately, cure diseases like hemophilia and sickle cell disease, and even many ultra-rare diseases that were previously untreatable. Take...

Government solutions often come with a price. For the America Invents Act (AIA), this price was an unintended impediment to medical innovation. Proposed legislation known as the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act can reduce these costs, if Congress takes advantage of the opportunity. The problem of patent trolls plaguing Silicon Valley was a well-documented, and troubling, problem. Patent trolls are entities that obtain patents, often obscure patents, for the sole purpose of filing lawsuits in court. The troll then uses the threat of...

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., recently proposed bills that would impose price controls on prescription drugs. The legislation would require pharmaceutical companies to sell their medicines in the United States for no more than the median price charged in five countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. If companies refuse to cut prices in the United States, the federal government could revoke existing patents or market exclusivities and allow generic drug manufacturers to sell knockoff copies...

Animal products used in or on humans have been an invaluable part of medical practice for almost a century. Examples include animal insulins to treat diabetes and pig heart valves transplanted into humans. A related medical breakthrough was just published on Dec. 5 in the journal "Nature": Genetically modified pig hearts transplanted into baboons can function long-term, a major step towards the clinical use of pig donor hearts in human patients. But suppose bioethicists objected, on the grounds that such mixing of...

There is no shortage of bad ideas when it comes to the pharmaceutical market. One such proposal would allow drugs to be imported directly from other countries, such as Canada. Then there is the Trump Administration’s proposal that would effectively adopt foreign price controls on Medicare Part B drugs by implementing an international pricing index (IPI). These policies, if implemented, would harm the quality of health care in the U.S. by reducing patients’ access to medicines and harming future innovations. What’s...

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar just released a sweeping proposal that would drastically change how Medicare pays for advanced cancer therapies and other potent medicines. The plan relies on foreign price controls to reduce drug spending by $17 billion over five years. Although drug spending may decline, as the Congressional Budget Office has noted, the plan could result in increased healthcare spending elsewhere, as patients will inevitably lose access to medicines. So while the savings is questionable, the negative...

Last month, the Trump administration proposed several reforms to drive down prescription drug prices. One measure would force pharmaceutical companies to mention the sticker prices of their medicines in television advertisements. The new mandate covers all prescriptions drugs reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid that cost more than $35 a month. The administration hopes this change will empower patients to choose more affordable drugs and embarrass companies into reducing their prices. But the rule won’t achieve those goals. Instead, it would mislead customers into thinking drug prices are...

Seasonal outbreaks of the flu cause thousands of deaths even in a good year, and the last flu season, 2017-2018, was a terrible one. It killed 80,000 Americans and sent 900,000 to the hospital, making it the worst influenza season in decades. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show how much of an outlier it was: Previously, seasonal outbreaks since 2010, had killed between 12,000 and 56,000 and caused between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations. Statistics like that can seem impersonal,...