Today, Americans are paying high monopoly prices for many of their brand prescription drugs due to a lack of competition. The result is that nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs have difficulty affording the medicine they need, and many others don’t take their medicines as prescribed.
H.R. 3, which will be the subject of a congressional hearing this week, would significantly change the way that Medicare and the federal government pay for prescription drugs. Among other provisions, the bill aims directly at those products without competition by allowing the HHS Secretary to negotiate the prices of as many as 250 drugs without competition for both government programs and the commercial market.
Seeking solutions to sole-source drugs, which are at the root of the problem of high drug prices, is critical and so are policies to increase timely competition wherever possible. As Congress works to address high and rising prescription drug prices, it’s worth asking: how did so many drugs in the U.S. end up without competition in the first place, even decades after they originally come to market? The answer: brand pharmaceutical companies are gaming every facet of our system from the FDA to the courts to the Patent and Trade Office—to ensure that generic and biosimilar competition stays off the market for as long as possible.
Over the past several years, a series of studies has exposed how drug manufacturers protect their top-selling drugs from competition by gaming the system to extend their monopoly time on the market. In July, a Matrix Global Advisors study, sponsored by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, showed that, as a result of surrounding their drugs with hundreds of overlapping patents and other tactics that brand drug companies use to stifle competition, U.S. patients pay over $30 billion more in higher drug prices. For millions of Americans already struggling to afford their prescription drug prices, this is unnecessary and unfair.
When big drug companies game the system, patients suffer. We’ve all heard horror stories describing how high drug prices are devastating American families. Nobody should ever have to choose between paying rent or taking life-saving medicine. By removing the barriers to competition, we can bring more affordable generic and biosimilar drugs to the market sooner and bring relief to millions of American families.
The time to act is now and Congress must continue to prioritize its efforts to contain drug prices. By moving competition to market faster, policymakers can strengthen the free-market system that has already delivered both innovation and billions of dollars in savings to U.S. patients. That’s something that Republicans, Democrats, and millions of Americans who already benefit from affordable generic and biosimilar drugs, can agree on.