You need to be concerned about these proposalsBy DR. WILL THOMPSON,
You need to be concerned for yourself, for your family. Why?
Let me explain.
I have cancer. Prostate cancer. Like one of every six men.
My choice of treatment was surgical. It didn’t work. I then had salvage radiation hoping for that 30% cure rate. It didn’t work.
I was left with an incurable cancer but one which could be managed with hormone therapy. After some several months, my cancer became resistant to hormones.
My oncologist then recommended an innovative form of treatment-immunotherapy. This form of treatment was the result years of research and development costing billions-with a B! It worked! Praise the Lord! This innovative treatment has prolonged my life allowing me to care for my patients (I’m a Family Doc) and build upon a nearly 50 year career. Without the time, research and money expended in developing immunotherapy, I wouldn’t be writing this article.
So what concerns me, and should you, is this. There is afoot in the federal government an effort to reduce the cost of certain drugs and treatments under Medicare Part B. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in dealing with Medicare Part B drug prices, intends to lower consumer prices through the use of price controls. These are drugs such as chemotherapy drugs that are usually administered by your doctor by injection or infusion at their office; these are not Medicare Part D prescription drugs that you get from your doctor, fill at a pharmacy and take at home.
Currently, the federal government embraces free market principles in setting pricing for Medicare Part B and Part D drugs. This is a fundamentally good thing and encourages competition. Of course, drugs can be expensive, so it’s predictable that there is tension for lower pricing, and the federal government has proposed setting U.S. prices for medicines covered under Part B based on prices set by 14 foreign governments with something called the International Pricing Index.
This International Pricing Index or IPI would serve as a price control mechanism for Medicare Part B drugs. The problem is that the countries that would be referenced in the model use a range of arbitrary techniques to artificially lower prices below market rates, often resulting in severe access restrictions for patients. For example, patients living in the countries referenced by HHS have, on average, access to only 55 percent of new cancer medicines, compared to access to 95 percent in the United States. They keep their costs low by not offering the latest and best drugs. They are rationing access to the newest drugs. For my patients and my own cancer treatment, I always want the best possible care.
One concern is that that there will be fewer drugs developed in the U.S. and therefore fewer drugs entering the market. It takes a lot of time (sometimes a decade or more) and money (over $1 billion) for a single new drug to become an approved medicine by the Food and Drug Administration.
And these drugs are vitally important. According to AARP, Medicare provides health coverage to more than 57 million Americans, and as more baby boomers turn 65, enrollment is expected to reach 64 million in 2020.
The institution of the IPI will bog down the system through added bureaucracy, inhibiting both the research and distribution of life-saving treatments. The U.S. leads the world in rare disease and cancer treatment research and development. If we remove financial incentives from pharmaceutical companies, the development of such drugs and treatments will be negatively impacted. Reducing reasonable profits of drug companies through price controls will inevitably lead to less innovation, rationing of medical care and inhibiting patient access to new potential cures.
Our free market, capitalistic system has stood us well for 250 years. Why do we need to lean upon the socialist methods of other countries to solve our problems?
I am glad President Trump is considering how to lower the cost of health care, but price controls and stifling innovation are not the way to do it. I encourage Senators Wicker and Hyde-Smith to oppose such a proposal and look instead to free market solutions that have made America’s healthcare system the best in the world.
Dr. Will P. Thompson is a cancer survivor and has served as a family doctor in Yazoo City since 1970.