A bipartisan bashing: Rubio slams drug prices, pharma's 'pure profiteering'
- Bloomberg reports that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, took on the U.S. biopharma industry's pricing practices during a campaign event in New Hampshire last week.
- "These companies decide, 'We can get away with charging it, and so we do,'" said Rubio in response to an attendee's question about medication costs. "It’s a new issue that’s emerged over the last few years but it’s a significant one, because it threatens to bankrupt our system. It’s a complex issue but it’s one we have to confront." The senator referred to some companies' strategies as "pure profiteering."
- Rubio also suggested a pay-for-performance model for pricey drugs, although he was careful to recommend a "market-based" approach for implementing such a model rather than direct government or regulatory intervention. "There are some drugs out there that are really expensive and there’s another drug out there that’s less expensive, but the difference in performance is none," said Rubio.
Propelled by public outrage over l'affaire Martin Shkreli and the subsequent cascade of reports that major pharma companies like Valeant, Allergan, Pfizer, and Horizon Pharma regularly hike drug prices in order to make up for falling demand and revenue, politicians are feeling increasingly at-ease with publicly taking on medication costs.
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Voters read the news and are directly affected by drug price hikes, and as the presidential cycle heats up and the media continues to focus like a laser beam on the issue, pharma's pricing dynamics will remain in the limelight.
But for the industry, an emerging bipartisan consensus on the need to change the status quo could be hugely disruptive. Independent physician and payer organizations are already pursuing tools like cancer drug scorecards and pay-for-performance metrics to quell soaring costs to both the healthcare system and patients. And it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where the public outrage and political focus on the issue complicates initiatives such as the industry-backed 21st Century Cures Act.
A spokesperson for Rubio made sure to clarify that the senator knows not all companies in the sector behave in this fashion, but that there are clearly some "bad actors who put profits ahead of patients."
The presidential hopeful also pointed to the disparity between drug prices in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. "What’s really frustrating is the exact same medicine just across the border is a quarter of the price," he said. "So you realize America is subsidizing health care for the world."