Taking direction from the White House’s recent and ongoing actions towards drug pricing, Congress has begun its latest investigation into prescription drug pricing. It starts with letters sent to 12 companies with products Congress views as either too costly or too price-hiked. As you might expect, that list is filled with blockbusters. Like America used to be. While the list is filled with pharma household names, three names you won’t see on the list—Amgen, Merck, and Gilead—were recently lauded by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for curbing drug prices. So maybe some progress is being made? The House Oversight Committee will hold hearings on Jan. 29 for experts and patients to weigh in, but no word on whether execs will be expected to make an appearance.
A wise man once said, “if at first you don’t succeed, you’d better hope your rivals don’t either,” or something like that. Republicans in Congress had their chance to shine, but with the recent failure of the American Health Care Act, Democrats are looking to beat them to the punch by improving the existing Affordable Care Act. A coalition, led by Senator Al Franken, proposed a bill that would require transparency from drug companies in R&D cost, acquisitions, investments, and other areas that influence pricing, and that information would then be publicly available. If passed, this bill could make congressional Democrats the modern-day healthcare heroes. They would be good enough, smart enough, and “doggone it” people would like them. Apparently, Sen. Franken already knows that.
Election season has passed and Donald Trump is set to take office in 2017, accompanied by a newly Republican-filled Congress. This means we could be poised to witness even more of the mega-mergers that have taken place across the pharma landscape. These mergers have been popular for US companies partly because it has allowed them to achieve huge (…yuge) tax savings due to US tax rates. President-elect Trump has stated multiple times that corporate tax rates are too high and that he will be working to drop them drastically to promote competition within the US. If this comes to fruition, be prepared to see more companies bring in off-shore dollars to take advantage of these changes.
The world wants the Zika vaccine now. The world needs the Zika vaccine now. At least we can say significant steps were taken this week in the right direction. Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced that they will begin Phase I trials of their vaccine in the next few weeks. Also, the US House of Representativesapproved a bill to put forth $1.1 billion to fight the virus, to be voted on later by the Senate. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “It’s still a long tunnel that we get to before we get to any vaccine and one that’s safe,” but expect continued global efforts as the disease continues to spread.