Biden agenda for Build Back Better plan to lower prescription drug prices

Aug. 13, 2021

In a Whitehouse press briefing, President Biden outlined his plans to reduce drug prices for all Americans. It’s estimated that more than 34 million Americans, 10 percent of the population of the United States, have diabetes, including more than 1.5 million of those who have Type 1 diabetes.

Today, one in four Americans who take prescription drugs struggle to afford them.  Nearly 30 percent have skipped doses, or cut pills in half because they can’t afford the cost. The Biden Administration has already taken significant steps to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Last month, an executive order was signed that has the effect of improving competition in the economy, which will result in lower prescription drug costs.

Examples of critical drugs with high increases include:

  • More than 1 million Americans living with multiple sclerosis, one common drug for that disease costs $7,100 per month. The price has gone up 1,000 percent over the last 20 years without any change in the drug. 
  • For more than 1 million people with rheumatoid arthritis, a common prescription drug used to cost about $1,350 per month; that was when it was introduced back in 2003.  Today, the same drug costs $7,700 per month — over five times more expensive without any change.

The Biden plan includes:

  • More generic drugs: When a drug company seeks permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for a certain drug to get a patent, the patent allows the company to exclusively sell that drug without competition for up to 12 years.  When that time period expires, other companies can come along, make the same exact drug and sell it as a “generic drug.” Research shows that prices could be cut by 25 to 33 percent and save $54 billion for consumers over the next 10 years, with the use of generic drugs.
  • Import drugs from Canada: The Administration has ordered the FDA to work with states and Tribes to import prescription drugs safely from Canada after determining these are drugs that the FDA has determined are safe.
  • Give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices. If Medicare prices are available to private insurance companies, then it would also reduce the cost of employer-based health insurance coverage.
  • Cap the amount that seniors have to spend on prescription drugs each year at no more than  $3,000 a year.
  • Drug companies can only raise prices based on the rate of inflation after it’s determined how much they’ve invested and what a healthy profit constitutes.
  • If Medicare prices are available to private insurance companies, then it would reduce the cost of employer-based health insurance coverage. Once Medicare negotiates a lower drug price for its beneficiaries, an employer-based plan shouldn’t have to keep paying whatever the drug company demands. They should get access to the same drug for the same price as Medicare. It means drug companies would have to sell their drugs to all distributors at the Medicare price or face up to a 95 percent excise tax. The savings for employers and employees would be billions of dollars a year.
  • Expand Medicare by adding dental, vision and hearing, which would make a world of difference for millions of people.

Whitehouse press briefing