This week, it was announced that the Republicans failed to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was poised to replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
However, this does not mean that efforts to improve the healthcare system in the US have diminished. In fact, it seems the Democrats are now taking their turn to bring forward a new bill that could significantly alter the current status quo.
Backed by Sen. Al Franken, Sen Bernie Sanders, and a coalition of Senate Democrats, the ‘Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act’, boasts a wide range of proposals all aimed at tackling the country’s rising drug prices and improving healthcare affordability for all Americans.
Drug companies are at the center of many of the proposals. If passed, the bill would require drug companies to publicly post information on the costs incurred when developing, manufacturing and marketing a new drug. It would also fine companies that introduce big price hikes, and get rid of the direct-to-consumer advertising tax deduction.
Additionally, the bill would introduce increased competition for US drug manufacturers by allowing the importation of cheaper medicines from Canada. There would also be moves to foster the development of cost-effective generic drugs by creating incentives for companies involved in this space and outlawing pay-for-delay arrangements that work to keep generics off the market.
It is hoped that these measures will reign in drug prices and make drugs more accessible and affordable for patients. To support this goal, the bill would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices on the market and set up a cap to patient’s out-of-pocket costs, which would require payers to cover a greater share of drug spending.
To promote continued clinical development, the bill also includes a proposal to award $10 billion, over a ten-year period, to the NIH to establish a Center for Clinical Research. Through this center, the agency will be able to conduct all phases of testing, from pre-clinical development right through to ph III clinical trials.
Although this new bill is supported by numerous organizations and patient advocacy groups across the country, it is so big and transformative that it will most likely run into significant industry pushback. Many of the proposals included in the bill will not be popular among pharma companies, and with Democrats holding a minority in both the House and the Senate, it will be a tough task gaining enough support to get the bill to President Trump’s desk.
However, the Senators backing the bill have expressed their strong desire to have the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act included in all upcoming legislative debates.