Don’t blame medicines for higher health care costs

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Regrading the Mirror’s July 27 story: “Insurer: Cost of cholesterol meds, other drugs driving rate hikes.”

The insurance industry’s blame-everything-on-medicines rhetoric simply does not hold up to the facts.

Just this week, the federal government projected that, even with new treatments for hepatitis C, high cholesterol and cancer, medicines will continue to account for just 10 percent of health care spending through the next decade, the same share as in 1960.

These same critics completely ignore the value these medicines provide to patients and the health care system broadly.

For example, the new class of cholesterol-lowering medicines, called PCSK9 inhibitors, are able to treat patients who were previously unable to keep their cholesterol in check with available treatment options and faced a high risk of developing serious and costly cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack and stroke.

Moreover, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have already announced plans to limit use of these medicines and, as new medicines come on the market in the coming months, they will leverage this competition to aggressively negotiate lower prices. This is exactly what we saw play out with the new cures for hepatitis C where – despite similar claims of unsustainable medicine costs – payers were able to negotiate discounts ranging from 30 to 65 percent below the list price.

It is time for a more balanced discussion of health care costs that moves beyond simple sound bites and political rhetoric and considers the big picture.

Robert Zirkelbach is Senior Vice President, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)

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