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Biden administration unveils 10 drugs for price negotiations: Takeaways and reactions


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services named the first prescription drugs selected for negotiation. The president has made lowering healthcare costs a top priority, but the impact of this remains to be seen.

Among the thousands of medications, a list of 10 drugs may seem small.

President Joe Biden says it's time for Medicare to be able to negotiate prescripton drug prices. (Photo: The White House)

President Joe Biden says it's time for Medicare to be able to negotiate prescripton drug prices. (Photo: The White House)

Still, President Biden’s administration unveiled the first group of drugs subject to price negotiation under Medicare. The drugs include some common medications such as blood thinners, treatments for diabetes, heart failure and arthritis.

The Biden administration says for the first time, the Medicare program will be able to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs. Some patient advocates and Democratic lawmakers say the step is long overdue, with some pining for bigger action.

“For far too long, Americans have paid more for prescription drugs than any major economy,” Biden said Tuesday.

Drug companies and trade groups pushed back, saying there are already significant discounts for medications and arguing that the step could hurt patients in the long-run.

Here’s a quick roundup of the news.

The 10 drugs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid announced these drugs as the first to be chosen for price negotiation.

  • Eliquis: An anticoagulant used to prevent blood clots
  • Jardiance: A medication for diabetes and heart failure
  • Xarelto: A blood thinner aimed at preventing clots
  • Januvia: Treatment for Type 2 diabetes
  • Farxiga: Drug for kidney disease, heart failure, and diabetes
  • Entresto: Medicine for heart failure
  • Enbrel: Treatment for arthritis and psoriasis
  • Imbruvica: Medication for leukemia
  • Stelara: Drug for Crohn’s disease and colitis
  • Fiasp and NovoLog: Insulin products

Medicare participants taking these 10 drugs covered under Part D paid $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs in 2022, CMS says. The Biden administration says the step will, eventually, make it easier for Americans to afford medications that could save their lives.

When talks happen

The federal government says negotiations with participating drug companies will occur later this year and in 2024. The Biden administration hopes to see reduced prices by 2026. The action is part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

As the Associated Press reports, CMS plans  to add 15 more drugs to its negotiation list for 2027 and 15 more medications for 2028. Afterward, CMS plans to add 20 drugs annually.

Voices of support

AARP, the nonprofit advocacy group for those over 50, hailed the announcement. Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, called it an important step to reduce “out-of-control prescription drug prices.” The main reason seniors skip taking prescriptions or ration their medications is because they can’t afford them, she said.

“Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for these first 10 drugs will finally bring much needed access and relief to American families, particularly older adults,” LeaMond said in a statement. “We cannot overstate how monumental this law is for older Americans’ financial stability and overall health.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat, called it a big win for consumers.

“This is a huge step towards lowering costs for families & we're not done yet,”  he wrote on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter).

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, called it “a historic day for health care in America.”

“Other nations around the world negotiate prescription drug prices and it is only fair that we do the same,” he said in a statement.

Expect Biden and fellow Democrats to campaign heavily on trying to lower prescription drug prices in the 2024 election cycle. Polls consistently show drug prices, and healthcare costs more generally, are among the top concerns of voters.

Pushing back

Drug companies have been suing to block the government’s plans. Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said in a statement Tuesday that the policy is misguided. He argues that insurers may impose higher copays and limit access.

“Politics should not dictate which treatments and cures are worth developing and who should get access to them. The cancer moonshot will not succeed if this administration continues to dismantle the innovation rocket we need to get there,” Ubl said.

Republican lawmakers have criticized Biden’s plan. They questioned the legality of the plan to try and set prices and they argue that some drug companies may put the brakes on developing innovative drugs.

Several GOP lawmakers denounced Biden’s plans Tuesday. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wisc., also contended it would weaken Biden’s “cancer moonshot” initiative.

“President Biden was quick to champion the Cancer Moonshot initiative, yet it is patients, like those who are battling cancer and rely on new and innovative treatments who will suffer the most,” Rodgers said in a statement. “Moreover, the incentives created by the new drug price setting regime may lead to higher initial list prices, potentially wiping out any savings to patients.

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican, said, “The Biden administration is trying to take a victory lap while at the same time they are pricing seniors out of their health care and ensuring future cures never reach those who need them.”

Cautious optimism

Gretchen Jacobson, who researches Medicare issues at the Commonwealth Fund, told the Associated Press that the drug price negotiations are designed to “make drugs more affordable while also still allowing for profits to be made.”

Dennis P. Scanlon, professor of health policy and administration at Penn State University, told The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®) in February that negotiation must allow drug companies to earn sufficient profits to fund research and development.

Still, he said the plan is “a step in the direction of using ultimately the purchasing power of the federal government through the Medicare program to be able to get better pricing and discounts for seniors.”

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