Last week, I shared a few areas where we can advance health in America this year, even in a divided Congress. Number one on that list: reining in the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.
 
On Tuesday, the AHA, the Federation of American Hospitals, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a report (https://www.aha.org/2019-01-15-recent-trends-hospital-drug-spending-and-manufacturer-shortages) with new evidence of this crisis. The verdict: Rising drug prices – as well as shortages for many critical medicines – are hurting patients and the hospitals and health systems that care for them each day.
 
Between 2015 and 2017, hospitals and health systems saw a nearly 20 percent increase in average total drug spending per admission … on top of the 38 percent increase in inpatient drug spending per admission they saw between 2013 and 2015. It’s forcing them to make tough choices such as delaying needed infrastructure improvements, finding work-arounds with alternative medicines, cutting back on services offered, and even rethinking staffing. For patients, it means sometimes having to choose between the medications they need and other essentials like food, housing and transportation.
 
It’s a serious problem, and 92 percent of Americans say that lowering prescription drug prices is “extremely important.”
 
Here’s what we need to do about it. To restrain out-of-control drug prices, we recommend several options including stopping brand-name manufacturers’ anticompetitive actions by addressing ever-greening and pay-for-delay practices, speeding up generic drug approvals, and passing the CREATES Act. To address drug shortages, we recommend strengthening manufacturers’ drug shortage disclosure requirements, developing drug shortage plans, incentivizing the production of drugs in shortage and manufacturing contingency plans and redundancies, and encouraging early drug shortage alerts to mitigate the risks, among others.
 
For its part, the government is beginning to take meaningful steps to address access to medications. The administration is taking actions to improve access to generics, and both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are putting forth proposals to improve access to affordable medications and crack down on anticompetitive behavior from brand-name manufacturers. On Jan. 29, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on this issue, and has invited the leaders of several drug companies to defend their pricing practices. More action is needed, but the country is moving in the right direction.
 
The takeaway: America is putting the drug companies on notice. The AHA will keep fighting to make medications more affordable and reduce drug shortages so America’s hospitals and health systems can deliver the quality, affordable care the American people need.

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