Patients for Affordable Drugs NOW held a “Presidential Drug Pricing Town Hall” on Tuesday featuring campaign officials from the Trump campaign (Katy Talento) and Biden campaign (Carmel Martin). The town hall was moderated by Kaiser Family Foundation’s Elisabeth Rosenthal, who questioned each campaign surrogate separately on important drug-pricing issues.

First, Talento touted the president’s efforts to lower drug prices in the past 4 years, noting drug prices in 2019 were 13% below where they were projected to be when President Trump took office. Talento explained that the “year over year decline in drug prices in some of those months,” could be attributed to several policies, but the “main reason” being that the FDA “cleared out the backlog of generic drug approvals.”

Key takeaways from Talento’s session included:

  • Price Transparency: Talento discussed two Trump regulations to enforce public pricing disclosures by hospitals and insurance companies to encourage drug price competition. “Price competition works in every other area of our economy. There is no reason it wouldn’t work in health care – it’s just never been tried because prices are secret.”
  • Executive Orders: When asked how these “proclamations” translate to action, Talento noted that – while the orders merely tell his administration what to do – there has been “a flurry of activity” from the administration, pointing to the final rule on Canadian drug importation and “Medicare savings demonstrations that are starting to roll out,” likely referring to the $200 copay cards for seniors.
  • Rebates and Middlemen: Talento’s biggest hope for the future is having employers starting to take control of their plans, cutting out the middlemen and rising rebates. “Instead of every year your premiums are going up higher, you can start to jack down premiums 20-40% in the first year just by getting out all these kickbacks and undisclosed conflicts of interest,” said Talento.

During her session, Martin spoke on the former vice president’s plan to lower drug costs if elected, which focuses primarily on Medicare drug pricing negotiation, limiting launch prices and price increases, improving the supply and quality of generics and allowing drug importation from other countries. Martin also spent much time discussing the Affordable Care Act, noting that President Trump’s recent efforts to lower drug costs would be limited if ACA was struck down.

Other takeaways from Martin included:

  • Independent Board: Martin discussed one measure in Biden’s proposal to create an independent board to assess value and fair launch prices of new treatments, as we will be relying less on traditional chemical drugs and more on specialized biotech treatments with little competition to keep prices in check.
  • Trump’s Drug Pricing Efforts: On the “ill-defined” executive orders, Martin noted that it has taken four years for President Trump to take action after pushing for drug pricing negotiation during his first election campaign. Martin also called attention to Democrats’ H.R. 3, which seeks Medicare price negotiation, noting that the president threatened to issue a veto on that bill.
  • Copay Assistance Coupons: Martin said the issue with manufacturer coupons is they can convince patients they are getting a lower price, but they may be paying more for their medicines in the long-term. Martin called for more substantial reforms, pointing back to Biden’s plan.