drug pricing legislation

Stemming the Tide of Declining US Life Expectancy: Implications for Drug Pricing Legislation

While it is encouraging that legislators are working to lower health care costs, it’s imperative that the means of achieving these goals also maintains a high quality of care, access to innovative treatments, and protects patients’ relationship with health care providers. Unfortunately, that is not the case of Speaker Pelosi’s drug pricing package known as HR 3. 

Americans have seen great advances in life expectancy since the middle of the last century.  These are in part due to innovative pharmaceuticals that help clinicians select from an armamentarium of advanced medications to combat an increasingly complex array of diseases. Unfortunately—and tragically—the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recently reported a decline in life expectancy for the third straight year, much of which is driven by a decline in life expectancy of American men. While the causes for this decline are complex and interlaced, one thing is certain: creating legislative, regulatory, or private industry policies that curtail innovation or access to advanced therapies will contribute to a continued decline in longevity and quality of life as Americans age. 

Speaker Pelosi’s efforts to redesign the Part D prescription drug benefit in HR 3 will undermine Medicare’s competitive marketplace, which is essential to ensuring patient access to a wide range of medications and will provide minimal, if any benefits to patients. In addition, the various proposals currently being discussed would implement anti-free market government price controls rather than allow market forces and negotiations to determine prices.  As has been seen in many other scenarios, government price controls do not work and generally impair innovation and thus threaten future access to breakthrough treatments. 

A recent review of the proposed legislation by The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates that HR 3 could lead to as many as 100 fewer drugs becoming available to Americans over the next ten years. Furthermore, and at the heart of our concern, is CEA’s assessment that the ultimate impact of this decrease in new medications would be a further reduction in Americans’ average life expectancy by about four months. Implementing policies that will result in a reduction in life expectancy is unacceptable on its own, but when it will exacerbate the factors already leading to declines, it is simply unconscionable.

Initiatives that limit research into new cures and treatments will significantly damage gains made to address men’s health needs and the needs of all Americans. In the past decade, we have seen new therapies lead to a remarkable 90 percent of men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer attain a five-year survival rate. More research is needed to increase the survival rates of other cancers and other complex conditions and must not be jeopardized by these proposed policy changes.   

While HR 3 may appear to improve the government’s short-term bottom line, it will undermine the long-term goals of restoring the American lifespan and enhancing quality of life through the golden years. Without unobstructed access to effective treatments and continued innovation in medications, the long-term cost of care will inevitably outstrip short-term budget line savings.  Ultimately, these proposed changes will do relatively little to improve access and care quality or reduce patient out of pocket spending.

As Congress considers HR 3 and other proposals to follow, Men’s Health Network strongly urges them to consider the likely adverse impact on our already declining American life span and reject proposed changes that focus on short-term line-budget fixes and instead focus on proposals that put patient needs first.

Men’s Health Network (MHN) is the oldest and largest advocacy and educational not for profit organization with a focus on the comprehensive health and wellness of boys, men and their families. This article is part of a series dedicated to exploring effective prescription medication pricing reform proposals that also benefit patients. Read the first post of the series, “Five Key Principles to Sound Prescription Medication Pricing Reform,” to learn more about how proposed policies could impact men’s health.

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

Dr. Salvatore Giorgianni

View posts by Dr. Salvatore Giorgianni
Dr. Giorgianni is an expert in men's health, is Senior Science Advisor to Men's Health Network, and is a registered pharmacist. He is a recognized expert in drug regulatory and US pharmaceutical policy as well as in organizational reputation management and strategic alliance development. He has authored, co-authored or presented some 200 works in health care, industry regulation and business. He is an advisor and board member to several health advocacy associations including: Men's Health Network; American Osteopathic Medical Foundation; Kappa Psi Scholarship Foundation; Nurse Practitioner Health Care Foundation and the National Association for Continence. He is a founding member of the Dialogue on Men's Health, a presenter at the White House conference on Men's Health, and a contributor to the SAGE publication, American Journal of Men's Health. Dr. Giorgianni had a 26 year career with Pfizer Inc, where he held positions in the medical, regulatory, training, public policy, business planning, sales and marketing groups. Most recently he served as Pfizer's Director, External Relations. He also directed several publications, including the Pfizer Careers In Health Care series and The Pfizer Journal: Perspectives in Health Care and Biomedical Research.

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