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Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Representing the 35th District of Texas


New York Times Opinion: What to Do About Prescription Drug Costs?

July 14, 2019

To the Editor:

Re “Sound, Fury and Prescription Drugs” (editorial, July 7):

I heartily agree with your recommendations to constrain prescription drug costs. In addition to efforts at the federal level, state governments have been very active on this issue since 2017.

State initiatives become models for federal action, and this area is no exception. Congress can facilitate more effective state initiatives with two changes to federal law.

First, federal law should allow prescription drug importation from Europe and Japan, in addition to Canada, under current law, for state-administered wholesale import programs. This would address the supply limitations that you already noted.

Second, federal law should clarify that state drug cost policy is treated the same as state regulation of insurance: exempt from any suggestion that drug cost policy could violate the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The drug industry’s relentless threats of costly lawsuits against any state that dares to make prescription drugs affordable results in cautious, and less effective, cost containment policy.

Congress can and should help states create effective drug cost containment models as part of any legislation that moves this year.

Jane Horvath
University Park, Md. 
The writer is a health policy analyst and policymaker.

To the Editor:

Among proposals to stop prescription price gouging is the still-unanswered request of 50 members of Congress that President Trump restrain prices on drugs developed with taxpayer money.

Actually reducing prices requires repealing the law prohibiting Medicare negotiation. Most House Democrats have joined my legislation using competition as an effective backstop to ensure successful negotiation.

The same government that grants a patent monopoly can condition it by licensing royalty-paying generic competitors.

Big Pharma would not exist without government intervention. Let’s now intervene for the sick and dying. Nor will this stifle innovation by monopolies, whose innovative spirit is misdirected at patent manipulation to strangle competition, and who spend more on marketing than on researching cures.

Pending Trump administration proposals fail to lower insulin or drug costs at the pharmacy counter. Big Pharma will not willingly yield billions in overcharges.

More is required than Democratic tweaks and Trump tweets. We need members with the courage to protect American consumers by resisting lobbying and campaign contributions.

Lloyd Doggett
The writer, a Texas Democrat, is chairman of the Health Subcommittee on Ways and Means.

To the Editor:

Missing from the debate on biopharmaceutical pricing is the economics of innovation alongside pricing and the economics of access.

Since the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, the United States has developed an engine of biopharmaceutical innovation that has generated hundreds of new therapeutic agents, many of which have transformed health care. The current discussion appears to take that productivity as fixed. It is not.

Any pricing discussion should recognize the number and impact of new medicines over the last 40 years, and policymakers should consider whether aggressively reducing prices will have the unintended consequence of undermining this historical productivity.

Many developed countries underpay their fair share for medical innovation, and the United States shoulders the principal burden of investing in medical innovation. But a policy that reduces American pricing to those countries’ levels is a recipe for reducing the cost of current treatments at the expense of creating new ones.

Peter Young
Port Jefferson, N.Y.
The writer has worked in the global pharma and biotechnology industry for almost 40 years.

To the Editor:

Prescription costs could also be sharply reduced if the pharmaceuticals would cease spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying, stock buybacks and interminable TV advertising.

Since that is unlikely, perhaps our billionaire philanthropists could at least join together to create a nonprofit corporation to manufacture generics as a first step.

Furthermore, if Americans realized that they are more likely to be hurt by medical and medication price gouging than by “socialists” or some imaged immigrant horde, then perhaps we could elect effective legislators.

Ira Moses
New York