“First, do no harm.”
the most basic and sacrosanct principle in all of medicine, and
Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar should
take serious note of it before going ahead with a poorly drawn, “race to
the bottom” plan to index Medicare Part B drug prices to countries with
socialized health care, where government bureaucrats undervalue and
tightly ration access to lifesaving drugs and treatments developed here
in the United States.
his campaign, President Trump promised to put a stop to bad trade
agreements that rip off American business and workers. He also vowed to
protect Medicare, encourage lifesaving medical innovations, and unleash
free market forces into the health care system. This so-called
“International Price Index” scheme would accomplish none of the above.
plan would jeopardize the coming generation of groundbreaking research
and medical advancements — and quick access to those breakthroughs for
44 million Medicare recipients — while drastically undervaluing the
current generation of Medicare Part B drugs.Whatever price reductions
might result from this debacle would not come close to compensating for
the permanent, long-term damage.
in America, we have medical research figured out. America’s
biopharmaceutical industry and American taxpayers — including Medicare
recipients who have paid into the system from their first day on the job
— have a partnership that is the envy of the world. Other nations know
it, and they benefit from our hard-won intellectual property without
paying one dime in return. Instead, using mandated price controls that
can’t be negotiated, they ration the lifesaving drugs and therapies we
develop here in America to their people on the cheap.
It’s the mother of all bad trade agreements.
fact, Next year, Congress will send more than $36 billion to the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) for medical research into hundreds
of diseases that afflict and destroy the lives of tens of millions of
people. America’s biopharmaceutical industry will then add more than $90
billion to take what is learned at NIH and develop new ways to prevent,
diagnose, treat and ultimately cure disease. On average, it can take 10
to 15 years, and more than $1 billion, to bring a promising new drug to
That’s a lot of time and money, but
our system produces real results. Thanks to lifesaving medical research
and hundreds of new, highly effective drugs, the life expectancy here in
America has almost doubled in just a few generations. Between 2010 and
2018, Americans had access to 95 percent of the hundreds of new cancer
drugs and therapies brought to market. By contrast, those percentages
drop drastically for nations like Britain, Japan, and Greece, where
socialized medicine and price controls undervalue and severely limit
access to new drugs.
it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what would happen if
America’s world-class public-private partnership in biomedical research
and development were to be clobbered by the same price controls imposed
by nations tied to a completely unrealistic “International Price Index.”
and Medicare patients would suffer. With its products badly
undervalued, America’s biopharmaceutical industry would have no choice
but to cut back on expensive, time-consuming research and development
into treatments for stubborn and perplexing diseases that widely target
Medicare seniors — cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart
disease, just to name a few.
addition, as supplies of existing drugs become more scarce, Medicare
patients would be forced to wait longer to obtain them. Meanwhile,
medical conditions become worse and more expensive to treat. That hurts
people’s health and drives up the cost of Medicare.
administration’s plan would also devastate rural hospitals and our
entire rural health care delivery system, because small rural
communities tend to have older people on Medicare. And the lifeblood of
rural health care lies in the ability of small hospitals and clinics to
deliver care to Medicare recipients. As Medicare limits access to drugs
and become more expensive, rural medical facilities would find it harder
to successfully treat Medicare patients, survive economically, and
attract good doctors.
Now here’s a better idea for the president and Secretary Azar — instead of allowing other countries with socialized medicine to use our medical research for free and undervalue the drugs we develop here in America, let’s negotiate agreements that require other nations to pay their fair share. That way, we can give NIH a big boost, and save more lives here and all around the world.