Drug Marketing Not Addressed – Yet – in House or Senate Drug Pricing Proposals

Sept. 20, 2019 – Although the House proposal unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to combat high drug prices would cap Medicare drug prices based on the average price in six developed countries, require that the federal government and drug companies negotiate prices for up to 250 of the most expensive prescription drugs, mandate that companies rebate to the federal government all drug price increases that were above the rate of inflation since 2016, and cap out-of-pocket (OOP) drug expenses at $2,000 for Medicare patients, it does not include, at this juncture, limits on drug marketing.

That also holds true for the Senate Finance Committee’s plan, moved to the full Senate on July 25, which includes capping OOP drug costs at $3,100 and limiting future price increases to the rate of inflation. So far, that is good news for drug marketing entities that support pharmaceutical clients, but how to rein in drug prices is shaping up to be “one of the major legislative fights of the year and one of the major campaign issues of the 2020 election cycle,” according to Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director Jon Bigelow.

It is not part of the Coalition’s mission to defend high drug prices, and the organization believes that “making all components of healthcare affordable is important to society and individual patients,” Bigelow said in a letter to industry leaders. “Our interest in this debate is to watch for any proposals that, intentionally or not, infringe on the ability of our member companies or their clients to accurately inform providers, payers and patients about medical innovations,” Bigelow stated.

He explained that both the House and Senate bills are certain to be amended in the days and weeks to come in the push and pull between members of Congress wanting more aggressive, or less aggressive, action.  “A lot can happen in the legislative sausage-making process,” he noted. “The Coalition is watching closely for modifications or new proposals that introduce practical or legal issues for communications or marketing.”

Vox reports that voter pressure around the topic of drug pricing and the drive for a “win” before 2020 “are major factors pushing lawmakers to get something done.” President Donald Trump “is motivated to get something tangible passed,” Bigelow said.