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WASHINGTON — As Medicare drug price negotiation looms, congressional Republicans are scrambling to push through a limit that Democrats argue could hobble the agency’s efforts before they have even begun.

A House committee last week advanced a bill that would bar federal health agencies from using a controversial value metric known as quality-adjusted life years, or QALYs. The metric places value not just on extension of life but also on various quality of life factors, which critics argue assigns a lower value to the life of someone who could be living with a debilitating disease. For instance, a QALY measurement would heavily favor a heart medicine that helps extend the life of an otherwise healthy person. In a disease like MS, in contrast, while QALYs would note that a medicine helps a patient stall or alleviate serious ailments, that MS patient would score lower on the metric than others because they’d have less mobility and more daily pain.


Some Democrats initially supported the measure, since disability rights advocates have long argued that QALYs place less value on the lives of people with disabilities.

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