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WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers in recent weeks have begun to advance an argument long seen as something of a third rail in U.S. politics: that slightly less biomedical innovation might be worth a dramatic reduction in drug prices.

The surprising candor has come amid pushback to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s high-profile drug pricing bill, which the trade group PhRMA this month said represented “nuclear winter” for the development of new medicines. Some Democrats, in response, have attempted to reframe the discussion in purely utilitarian terms, asserting that dramatically lower costs now justify a marginal reduction in new treatments in the coming decades.


“Three hundred forty-five billion dollars in savings versus the cost of eight to 15 fewer drugs over 10 years,” Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) said at a recent hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I frankly think it’s worth it.”

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  • Are patients in all the other countries that pay half or less of what American patients pay for drugs saying “Thank goodness U.S. patients are the suckers who pay for all the innovation from which we all benefit?” This has got to be seen internationally as drug development is a very global business. I lean in the direction that controls on prices will force drug companies to spend less money on me-too drugs with marginal improvements and more on meaningful innovation that would not be as affected by price controls. Most of them rely on expensive acquisitions for new drugs anyway, v.s. being more efficient at developing them themselves. They could also reduce the tons they spend on marketing – just watch 10 minutes of CNN any time of day… and on grossly inflated executive salaries. Also, more than anything else, we need the FDA to start considering not only safety and efficacy but also value, like NICE does in the U.K. and many other countries. We spend 50% more on healthcare and have worse outcomes by most measures than most other OECD countries. Why?

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