GOP candidates weigh in on drug cost debate

With the high cost of prescription drugs continuing to make headlines, Republican presidential candidates have begun to join their Democratic counterparts in discussing what to do about the issue, according to the healthcare news website Stat.  

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has made one of the strongest stands on high drug costs, introducing the Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015 in September. The bill would require major price disclosures from drug manufacturers, which could help private payers in their ongoing efforts to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. Fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has also taken aim at the pharmaceutical industry, unveiling a plan the same month that would cap monthly and annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for patients suffering from chronic illnesses.

But until recently, Stat notes, many of the GOP's presidential contenders haven't offered much detail about how they plan to tackle the issue. That has changed now that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has rolled out a healthcare policy platform, which includes a proposed overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also has touted the idea of FDA reform in an opinion piece for the National Review.

But simply calling for FDA reform may not be enough for the candidates given the prominence of the drug costs issue, Yevgeniy Feyman, deputy director at the Center for Medical Progress at the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, tells the publication. 

To that end, when speaking in Iowa recently, Ben Carson sought to find balance between supporting the pharmaceutical industry's right to make money and finding ways to "take care of our people," he said in remarks posted by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has gone even further, slamming the pharma industry's "pure profiteering" in a recent town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Stat notes.

Health insurers, too, are increasingly sounding the alarm about what they see as unsustainable price trends among high-cost drugs, two health plan executives pointed out during a recent webinar. In fact, rising pharmaceutical costs are the "single biggest driver of premiums today," said John Bennett, M.D., president and CEO of Capital District Physicians' Health Plan in upstate New York.

To learn more:
- read the Stat article
- access videos of Carson and Rubio's remarks
- here's Cruz's op-ed

Related Articles:
Health plan CEOs: Prescription drugs pose major cost concerns
As Dems prepare to debate, Bush unveils ACA replacement plan
Clinton unveils plan to cap monthly costs for Rx drugs
Sanders leads push for Medicare to negotiate drug prices