Submitted by Dick Muri, Steilacoom.
The COVID-19 pandemic as with many previous crises has become unnecessarily politicized. Our elected leaders must resist temptation to come up with quick fixes and instead focus on getting vaccines developed, approved, and then efficiently distributed to the public. The related challenges created by COVID 19 are complex and involve all sectors of our healthcare system. When crafting solutions in healthcare it is important to remember that these challenges do not exist in a vacuum and policymakers need to be cognizant that if they pull a thread what might unravel.
Public health, access to treatments and price are all top of mind for the American public. Policymakers must support and work with the biopharmaceutical industry in their efforts to develop and distribute a vaccine to COVID 19. Without a vaccine we cannot fully reopen and start to rebuild our economy. To that end leaders must reject government price setting policies. Such policies would have far reaching impacts that extend beyond COVID 19 disrupting our free market, jeopardizing the biopharmaceutical innovation that is critical to developing vaccines and therapies for COVID-19 – in addition to other innovative cures.
Even President Trump who I often agree with is pushing for price controls on prescription drugs with his Most Nation Executive Order. I understand the President’s concern regarding prescription drug prices, but I believe that a solution is best addressed by Congress. We are fortunate to have leaders in Congress like our state’s own Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05 Spokane), who last week was voted in as the ranking Republican of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee – a committee that will be directly involved in upcoming legislation on this issue. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers like many in Congress has opposed price controls because they hinder innovation. In 2021 Congress needs to unite and pass bipartisan legislation that supports biopharmaceutical innovation and addresses the price of prescription drugs to patients without price controls.
America’s regulatory scheme has historically encouraged investment in research and development and explains why the U.S. leads the world in innovative cures. Congress needs to work together with the President to tackle this multifaceted and complex problem with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable. In addition to addressing the cost of drugs with biopharmaceutical companies’ policymakers must work with insurance companies on lowering out of pocket costs when patients are filling their prescriptions. Furthermore, our leaders should implement policies to protect patients with preexisting conditions.
It is clear that we must find ways to lower prescription drug prices, but price controls are a simplistic solution to a complex problem. Price controls will lead to less biopharmaceutical innovation and reduce patient access to the drugs they need. We live in one of the most precarious times in America’s history our elected leaders need to unite and find solutions for the challenges we face in health care. We deserve better than politicized solutions that jeopardize the biopharmaceutical industries ability to innovate for American patients.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.