The country's largest pharmaceutical lobbying group said Thursday that President Trump's plan to control drug spending would jeopardize access for seniors and patients with disabilities, likening the proposal to socialized healthcare systems in Europe.
"The administration is imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized healthcare systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation," said Stephen Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA. "These proposals are to the detriment of American patients."
Countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Canada have healthcare systems in which the government pays for most healthcare services and also sets prices, including on prescription drugs.
The U.S. pays for drugs by allowing private health insurers to negotiate, but not the federal government. Certain programs, such as Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, get lower prices for drugs. Under the proposal Trump outlined Thursday, Medicare would be able to determine the price it pays for certain drugs based on the cheapest price that another nation pays. The administration is also considering letting private plans negotiate for drugs administered in doctors' offices and reimbursed by Medicare.
The program it falls under, known as Medicare Part B, doesn't typically use negotiation and also pays a doctor fee.
The types of treatments people get at the doctor's office or in a hospital include infusions to treat pain or muscular degeneration, chemotherapy, and treatments for multiple sclerosis. The cost of the treatments is paid for by the government and also by patients. The Department of Health and Human Services projected that this could result in $17.2 billion in savings over five years.
Ubl suggested that asking for a similar price as other countries pay is an unfair comparison, particularly because people in the U.S. have access to medicines an average of two years earlier. He said that people would be particularly at risk if they have illnesses such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
The pharmaceutical industry has long argued that the pricing model in the U.S. is better than elsewhere, saying that they need to charge high prices in order to develop future drugs. The process, they say, is an expensive, lengthy endeavor that isn't always successful.
"We oppose changes to Medicare that threaten patient access to innovative, lifesaving medicines and are disappointed the administration put the needs of patients aside with these proposals," Ubl said.