Dialing up the issue of high-cost medications, Rep. Henry Waxman, the lead Democrat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado are calling today for a hearing into the impact Sovaldi will have on Medicare spending.
The letter references new data out of Georgetown University that the hepatitis C treatment, manufactured by Gilead and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late 2013, will increase Medicare Part D spending by $6.5 billion in 2015. The lawmakers want to know more about the drug maker’s pricing strategy and raise the issue of discounts, noting that the drug costs far less in other nations and that discounts also apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to the Medicaid program but not to Medicare. The pharmaceutical industry and supporters in Congress have long opposed having Medicare negotiate drug prices.
It will be interesting to see how the call for the hearing and related issue of drug pricing intersects with the 21st Century Cures Initiative, a project spearheaded by Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and DeGette and focused on speeding the development of cures and therapies. Patient advocates are caught in a quandary in that they while they want to support industry in developing new therapies and treatments, they also want them to be accessible and affordable. The issue of drug pricing did come up in a 21st Century Cures hearing last week focused on incentives to spur therapy development, and today’s call will continue to keep the issue alive.