Hillary Clinton on Tuesday is rolling out a plan to crack down on high prescription drug costs, a problem that plagues millions of Americans.
Clinton's plan, which she'll formally unveil in Iowa, is premised on leveraging the nation's bargaining power to get better deals for patients on Medicare, reforming policies to foster competition in the pharmaceutical industry and implementing new rules to ensure consumers aren't exploited.
In a memo released early Tuesday, the Clinton campaign notes that "too many American families and seniors are being squeezed by rising drug costs." The memo cites a Consumer Reports survey from August showing that one in four Americans facing higher drug costs were unable to afford all their medical bills or medications. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry has a higher profit margin than just about every other major industrial sector.
One significant yet simple component of Clinton's plan entails leveraging the currently-untapped bargaining power the government has in negotiations over Medicare drug prices. Clinton's plan would allow the massive health care program, which has more than 40 million enrollees, to negotiate drug and biologic prices. Currently, drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries are negotiated by a disparate set of benefit managers.
Clinton's plan would also require drug manufacturers to provide rebates for low-income Medicare enrollees equivalent to the rebates offered to Medicaid enrollees. This would save more than $100 billion in Medicare costs, the Clinton campaign projects.
The Democratic frontrunner would also demand that pharmaceutical companies which benefit from government federal support invest a certain amount of money in research.
"Drug companies should not be allowed to reap excessive profits or spend unreasonable amounts on marketing if they want to receive support that is designed to encourage life- saving and health-improving treatments," her memo says.
Next, Clinton's plan would require health insurers to cap covered, out-of-pocket drug expenses at $250 a month. The campaign estimates this policy, already in place in states like California and Maine, benefit up to a million Americans a year.
Clinton would also attempt to spur more competition and lower prices in the drug market by a set of regulatory reforms. For instance, she wants to fully fund the FDA's Office of Generic Drugs to clear out its generic drug approval backlog. She also proposes lowering the exclusivity period for biologic drugs from 12 to seven years. Clinton also wants to let Americans import drugs for personal use from nations with safety standards as rigorous as those in the U.S.
Additionally, Clinton proposes cracking down on direct-to-consumer advertising. Ads for prescription drugs "can include confusing, misleading or incomplete information or exaggerated claims if not regulated effectively," her memo notes. She would eliminate corporate write-offs for direct-to-consumer advertising and establish required FDA pre-clearance for such ads.
Clinton's plan comes amid outrage over the dramatic price increase for a decades-old drug used to treat a parasitic infection. Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased the drug, called Daraprim, and raised its price from $13.50 to $700.
The Democratic frontrunner condemned the price hike on Twitter.