Prescription drug situation less than ideal for consumers

Monday, March 11, 2019
Chris Woodward (

doctor writing prescriptionIt may be one of the few things that enjoys bipartisan agreement: Prescription drug prices are too high. But fixing the problem will not be easy.

It may be one of the few things that enjoys bipartisan agreement: Prescription drug prices are too high. But fixing the problem will not be easy. 

One idea involves price controls, but some individuals, think tanks, and special interest groups warn this could lead to less research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. Meanwhile, some concerns of late involve pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) not passing down savings from drug companies to consumers.

Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) has introduced the Drug Price Transparency (DPT) Act in hopes of forcing these middlemen to pass savings onto consumers.

"Before being elected to the U.S. Senate last year, I spent 37 years building a business in my hometown, hiring hundreds of Americans, and taking on the insurance industry to give my employees quality, affordable healthcare while covering pre-existing conditions," Braun says in a statement on his website. "I'm offering solutions to address rising healthcare prices by adding transparency to our drug pricing, clearing the backlog on pending drug applications at the FDA, and providing oversight and accountability within the healthcare industry."

Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center has mixed opinions.

"Senator Braun's is an attempt to solve or address the problem of PBMs, pharmacy benefit managers who are not passing along price reductions instituted by the pharmaceuticals along to the consumers, so there is a real problem there," Stier begins. "I as a freemarketer am never pleased to see legislation that bans behavior between two companies, so if a PBM gets rebates from drug companies, that may be how they operate their business."


In what Stier describes as his ideal world, the consumer could choose whether to engage with that business model. 

"However, we don't live in a healthcare environment that's free market; it's extremely regulated," he continues. "It's kind of like a ball of string with knots in it, and I think this proposal addresses one of the really ugly knots, but I think more needs to be done to untangle it so that we have something that serves consumers, that advances public health, that looks more like a free market."

Last December, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act that would create an Office of Drug Manufacturing to produce and sell generic medications. In Warren's mind, this would create competition in the market and help drive down prices.

But Sally Pipes, CEO of Pacific Research Institute, wrote an op-ed calling Warren's plan "absurd."

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