The manufacturers of 10 medicines for serious illnesses, selected earlier in the year for price negotiations with the US government, have all agreed to participate in the talks, the White House said Tuesday.
The announcement comes despite pharmaceutical firms’ continued pushback against the initiative, in which the federal government is using new powers to negotiate the prices of drugs covered by Medicare, the massive health insurance program for people over 65.
President Joe Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the major legislative package of energy transition policy and social reforms he signed last year, allowed Medicare to begin negotiating drug prices for the first time in its nearly 60-year existence.
Under the law, the federal government is limited at first to choosing only 10 drugs for price negotiations, but can expand the program in subsequent years.
It is a key move given that the United States pays on average 2.5 times more for prescription drugs than other developed countries such as France, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.
The pharmaceutical industry has fiercely opposed Medicare price negotiations for decades, and several companies have already announced lawsuits challenging the IRA provisions.
Merck in June filed a lawsuit calling the program an unconstitutional “extortion” that would harm pharmaceutical innovation.
In late August, the Biden administration announced the first tranche of drugs to be negotiated, including Merck’s diabetes treatment Januvia.
Biden, who is campaigning for reelection with a heavy focus on easing voters’ financial woes, hailed the move at the time as potentially life-altering for millions of Americans.
“In total, the 10 drugs selected for negotiation accounted for $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for an estimated nine million Medicare enrollees in 2022,” the White House said in a statement released Tuesday.
It called the latest development a “major step towards lower health care costs for seniors and families.”
The 10 drugs include Farxiga by AstraZeneca used against diabetes and heart failure, and Imbruvica by Pharmacyclics, used to treat blood cancers.
The treatments also include the anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban), used by more than 3.7 million Medicare beneficiaries.
The change in prices for the 10 drugs are not set to come into effect until January 2026.
Medicare is set to negotiate prices for up to 60 drugs in the next four years, and up to an additional 20 drugs each year after that.
© 2023 AFP
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