An international price index for drugs is all wrong—especially right now

February 3, 2020
In case you missed it while refilling your snack supply, there was a heart-tugging commercial about puppies and biotech during last night’s JLo concert. Watch to learn how medical research saved the life of Scout and millions of other pets (not to mention their owners)…

In case you missed it while refilling your snack supply, there was a heart-tugging commercial about puppies and biotech during last night’s JLo concert. Watch to learn how medical research saved the life of Scout and millions of other pets (not to mention their owners).

Turning to the busy week ahead, the Iowa caucuses are tonight and the State of the Union is tomorrow, and both events are likely to shape discourse on health care and the climate in the coming months. So, we’re taking a look at the outlook for an international price index and how biotech can play a role in sustainable farming, in about 980 words, just under 5 minutes.

An international price index for drugs is all wrong—especially right now

The impeachment trial is sucking up a lot of the oxygen in Washington, but when things get back to relative normal, expect both parties to continue to push an international price index for prescription drugs.

But everyone from biopharma start-ups to conservative think tanks says this proposal is all wrong, especially right now.

To catch you up: In December, House Democrats passed H.R. 3, which would require drug manufacturers to negotiate prices with the government based on an international price index (IPI), while the Trump administration is rushing to finalize a similar IPI, POLITICO reported last week.

As we know, no matter which party actually makes it the law of the land, an IPI will chill investment and jeopardize new cures without addressing the real reasons why consumers pay more out of pocket for drugs and care. 

Biotech companies are speaking out. Rachel King, co-founder and CEO of BIO member GlycoMimetics, is working to develop new treatments for patients with various blood diseases, but says in a new video that an international price index would “directly inhibit” the ability of small biotech companies like hers to attract investment needed to bring these cures to market. 

Take it from the expert: “Investors can put their money wherever they want to. Investors can put their money into apps, they can put them into cell phones, they can put them into IT…or they can put their money into developing new drugs,” she explains. “If we change the incentives and if we decrease the incentives for investing in new drugs, the money will flow out of the biotechnology industry and the United States risks losing its lead position."

And the biotech industry is not alone in this thinking. Last week, dozens of conservative groups sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging him to withdraw the administration’s IPI proposal, which they say relies on “importing foreign price controls” rather than the market. 

What they’re saying: “When imposed on medicines, price controls suppress innovation and access to new medicines. This deters the development and supply of new life saving and life-improving medicines to the detriment of consumers, patients, and doctors,” they wrote.

Mike drop: "We’re in the middle of a global health crisis as the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread and the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry is stepping up to research cures and vaccines as quickly as possible. This would not be possible without the enormous investment required to research and bring new cures to market—but price controls jeopardize that investment." — Mike Mattoon, BIO’s Vice President for Federal Government Relations

To learn more about the flaws of importing foreign price controls, visit


More Health Care News: 

Axios: The global economic threat of the coronavirus
“The coronavirus has the potential to be as damaging to the global economy as the U.S.-China trade war, economists tell Axios, and if not contained could wreak havoc on businesses across the globe, with great uncertainty over how bad things could get.”

STAT: Employers shoulder plenty of drug costs, but haven’t lobbied much to lower them—until now
“The new group called EmployersRx, a joint project of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, the Pacific Business Group on Health, the ERISA Industry Committee, and the Silicon Valley Employers Forum, is hoping to push lawmakers to start thinking about drug pricing policies that will affect the broadest number of Americans, not just changes to federal programs.” The group is signaling they may support H.R. 3.


The situation on the ground

We’re gearing up for more conversations over the coming months about climate change and the role the agriculture and energy sectors need to play in reducing our carbon emissions. So today, we’re taking a look at forward-looking solutions to some of these challenges—a reminder of the need for policy to support biotech innovation.

The situation on the ground: “Intensive agriculture may be nourishing most of the Earth’s inhabitants, but it’s doing the opposite to earth itself,” explains The Conversation.

Meanwhile: “Pests, diseases and weeds cause almost 40% of crop losses globally—and without care, the figure could rise dramatically. Climate change is shifting where pests and diseases thrive, making it harder for farmers to stay resilient."

Enter biotech: “Nature and technological innovation are tackling these problems head onand if the solutions they’re offering are incorporated on a large scale and used together, a new agricultural revolution could be on its way,” says the report.

Specifically: From soil innovations making nutritious natural (and cleaner) fertilizer for crops, to gene editing techniques, which The Conversation says “can be used to detect the presence of pests and nutrient deficiencies, or simply improve their resistance to extreme weather and pests,” the farms of the future require biotechnology.

Why are we talking about this NOW? Several Democratic candidates have made sustainable agriculture and biofuels key elements of their campaigns, particularly in Midwest battleground states, so it will be interesting to see how this conversation evolves after the Iowa caucuses tonight. Meanwhile, BIO is ensuring the role of biotech remains a part of these conversations, and in particular, dispelling mistruths about gene editing to ensure this tech isn't unnecessarily regulated.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Lunch with the veep, then watching the second part of his exclusive interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News. And maybe, studying a U.S. map

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House will meet briefly, while the Senate gets back to the impeachment trial, with Trump’s acquittal expected on Wednesday.

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