Spending on the health care industry represents a substantial portion of the US economy, mainly because of drug pricing issues. Numerous factors explain the presence of this adverse phenomenon and its effects. Thus, the problem is that high prices result in the fact that medical services become less available for the population, leading to worse health outcomes. That is why the purpose of the policy brief is to comment on possible steps to control drug prices and prevent them from growing. The scope of the paper is limited to analyzing the existing options and describing their potential effect.
The given policy brief uses the method of literature review. It means that relevant scholarly articles are identified, which is followed by the synthesis of findings. This approach has allowed us to find out that there are at least four practical steps to address the issue under consideration. Firstly, it is reasonable to oblige drug manufacturers to disclose their research and development information to make the health care industry more transparent. Secondly, a useful option is to address the current patent system to allow cheaper generics to appear and enter the market. Thirdly, the 340B Drug Pricing Program is also helpful because it provides hospitals with discounted drug prices. Finally, it is rational to influence the current drug prescription trends to encourage health professionals to prescribe cheaper medicines.
Since the policy brief does not compare and contrast the proposed options, one can state that the best outcomes will be achieved if the steps are used in combination. It means that it is possible to influence and improve the drug pricing issue with the help of a comprehensive approach. Thus, the paper concludes that it is necessary to take specific steps to address the subject under consideration and make drugs more affordable for the population.
When people face a health condition, this situation is challenging because they need to deal with both medical and financial issues. It refers to the fact that drug prices become higher with every passing year throughout the world, in general, and in the United States, in particular. Brennan et al. (2017) stipulate that “one-fifth of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on healthcare, and pharmaceuticals are a key expenditure” (p. 277). Simultaneously, Dana et al. (2017) mention that US drug spending “was $309.5 billion in 2015, up 8.5% from 2014” (p. 155). This state of affairs is not only crucial in the 21st century. Leopold et al. (2016) explain that increasing drug prices have been of significance over the last 30 years. The information above denotes that the purchase of prescribed medicines can be an essential financial burden for individuals. Today, new hepatitis C drugs are considered highly effective, but they are “priced around $84,000 for a treatment course” (Leopold et al., 2016, p. 14). It means that the given treatment option is not available for all patients.
Numerous factors can explain why the United States deals with steadily increasing drug prices. Firstly, it is due to the lack of major patent expirations (Dana et al., 2017). This fact means that drug manufacturers apply for patents to protect their products from being copied. On the one hand, the patents protect patients from consuming low-quality drugs. On the other hand, these official documents do not allow other manufacturers to make generic versions of particular medications. It results in the fact that major patent expirations are necessary to provide patients with cheaper medicines. Secondly, technological and scientific advancements lead to the fact that new and more effective drugs appear. It is not a surprise that these treatment options are more expensive compared to traditional ones. Consequently, brand and specialty medications are less available for middle and low-class citizens since they are more expensive (Dana et al., 2017). This information indicates that it is rational to take specific steps to address drug pricing issues, and the following section will comment on them.
Approaches and Results
The first option to reduce drug prices is to require manufacturers to disclose research and development expenditures and efforts (Ryan & Sood, 2019). This step is necessary to see whether manufacturers establish reasonable and justified prices. The given option will inevitably contribute to a more transparent pharmaceutical industry and its supply chain, which, in turn, will have the potential to result in lower prices and affordable medicine.
The second possible solution is to influence the current patent system because the existing patents prevent generic drugs from entering the market. Dana et al. (2017) and Alexander et al. (2017) support this idea. In particular, Alexander et al. (2017) stipulate that it is necessary to limit the length of patents based on “the level of public investment in a drug” (p. 1474). Even though it is a challenging task, it can result in essential benefits.
The 340B Drug Pricing Program is another policy decision to control drug pricing. This program allows some hospitals to obtain drugs at discounted prices because this policy determines a ceiling price for the medication and makes manufacturers sell their products at this price. According to Dana et al. (2017), this program provided covered hospitals with a minimum discount of 22.5%, leading to savings of $3.8 billion on outpatient drugs in 2013 (p. 157).
Finally, another suitable policy option is to influence the whole health care industry and drug prescription trends. On the one hand, it refers to the promotion of health economics and outcomes research. Dana et al. (2017) explain that this strategy will help health care professionals determine whether a new medication will make a difference compared to the current treatment options. On the other hand, it is also possible to make physicians prescribe the drugs that will reduce spending for both patients and hospitals. Even though this step seems the least effective, it has the potential to result in positive outcomes.
The health care industry is an essential part of US expenditures, and it is mainly due to the continuously increasing drug prices. Numerous factors, including medical innovations, patent expirations, and others, contribute to this result, and that is why it is necessary to address the situation from a political perspective. The given policy brief has just presented the background information on the issue and introduced historical details. In addition to that, it has described possible options that can improve the situation under consideration. One should emphasize that the given policy brief does not argue in favor of a particular choice. Instead, it has given balanced information on the possible options to improve the situation. However, it still demonstrates the necessity to take some action and explains that any of the options can lead to positive outcomes and influence the drug pricing issue.
Implications and Recommendations
Even though the given policy brief presents balanced information on the existing options, it is possible to mention that a comprehensive approach to the problem will result in the most effective results. It refers to the fact that drug prices will become lower if the strategies are used in combination. Thus, increased transparency of the pharmaceutical industry and the 340B Drug Pricing Program will prevent hospitals from buying expensive medicines. Simultaneously, addressing the current patent system and influencing the existing prescription trends will also lead to the fact that patients will have an opportunity to choose cheaper treatment options.
The information above stipulates that the issue is of significance to the whole nation. That is why it is reasonable to make policymakers address and improve it. When it comes to Florida, it is wise to contact Senator Rick Scott, who was elected to the US Senate in 2018. It is so because this office is an active advocate for the well-being of the population. In addition to that, Rick Scott is a suitable person to affect drug pricing policy because he expressed intentions to achieve drug pricing transparency (Prieur, 2019). His official website (www.rickscott.senate.gov) has an appropriate form to contact the Senator. Thus, the given resource can be used to contact Senator Scott and send him the letter below to explain the situation and offer suggestions to address the drug pricing issue.
Dear Senator Rick Scott,
I am writing to you to emphasize the necessity of addressing the current drug pricing issue. I know that you are an active advocate for affordable and transparent health care, which makes you the perfect candidate to reach. The drug pricing topic is of significance now because many individuals experience financial difficulties in receiving life-saving medications. High prices represent the main barrier for the population, and that is why it is reasonable to take some actions to control them.
Since the issue under consideration is multifaceted, a single step cannot improve the situation, meaning that a comprehensive approach is needed. The possible solutions include contributing to a more transparent pharmaceutical industry, implementing specific programs for hospitals and individuals, altering the existing patent system, and affecting the current drug prescription trends. These actions have the potential to solve the problem because they address it from different angles. That is why it is challenging to state that any of the steps are more significant than the others. You can find more detailed information on the issue and its possible solutions in the attached policy brief.
I know that you have already taken some efforts to solve the drug pricing issue, which refers to your attempts to make drug manufacturers list out-of-pocket costs. This strategy is useful because it will allow people to see whether drug prices are reasonable. However, it seems that a suitable recommendation for you would be to expand your focus area. Positive results will appear if you try to change the patent system, which will open the market for cheaper generics. Furthermore, patients will not need to buy expensive drugs if health care professionals are encouraged to prescribe cheaper, but also effective medications. I hope that you will find this letter helpful to address the current drug pricing policy.
Alexander, G. C., Ballreich, J., Socal, M. P., Karmarkar, T., Trujillo, A., Greene, J., Sharfstein, J., & Anderson, G. (2017). Reducing branded prescription drug prices: A review of policy options. Pharmacotherapy, 37(11), 1469-1478.
Brennan, H., Kapczynski, A., Monahan, C. H., & Rizvi, Z. (2017). A prescription for excessive drug pricing: Leveraging government patent use for health. Yale Journal of Law and Technology, 18(1), 275-354.
Dana, K. N., Hertig, J. B., & Weber, R. J. (2017). Drug pricing transparency: The new retail revolution. Hospital Pharmacy, 52(2), 155-159.
Leopold, C., Chambers, J. D., & Wagner, A. K. (2016). Thirty years of media coverage on high drug prices in the United States – A never-ending story or a time for change? Value in Health, 19(1), 14-16.
Prieur, D. (2019). Senator Rick Scott announces plan to cut drug prices, says this will not include importing drugs. LRN. Web.
Ryan, M. S., & Sood, N. (2019). Analysis of state-level drug pricing transparency laws in the United States. JAMA Network Open, 2(9).