Editor's Note: The following editorial originated with a sister newspaper, the Mankato, Minn., Free Press.
Republicans in Florida and Iowa and elsewhere in the country believe Americans pay too much for prescription drugs and they’ve proposed changes to restrain the power of Big Pharma.
But a hidden provision in the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade agreement supported by President Donald Trump would insulate Big Pharma from competition for 10 years.
That provision must be removed, and if not, the trade deal should be torpedoed.
The agreement calls for giving Big Pharma freedom from competition when so-called “biologic” drugs are reproduced as cheaper, “biosimilar” drugs.
Biologics are drugs made from living organisms that can be used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. “Biosimilars” can be made as generic type brands of biologics when it is shown that the therapeutic components and safety are no different than biologics.
Biologics have become popular for their efficacy, but while they make up 2% of the total prescriptions drugs, they make up 37% of net drug spending, according to a report in Forbes, quoting a study by IQVIA Institute, a human data research company.
Boston University School of Public Health researchers who study trade treaties and the impact on access to medicine say there is a real concern the USMCA could boost prices of prescription drugs in the three countries.
The trade deal would expand the number of years Big Pharma would be sheltered from competition on biologics from biosimilars, which have been shown to cost 30 percent less, say Boston University researchers Veronika J. Wirtz, Warren A. Kaplan and Kevin Gallagher.
They say research and a review of studies shows the longer generic drug competition is prohibited, the higher prices go. The Food and Drug Administration reports that the generic biosimiliars could save consumers billions of dollars in prescription drug costs.
The USMCA deal that has been much touted by Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minnesota, as help for farmers would actually hurt them because farmers are often stuck paying high insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs because they have to buy insurance on the individual market.
Big Pharma is the most powerful lobby in America. It has once again found a way to thwart prescription drug price competition, even as more and more Democrats and Republicans are calling for it.
We urge Congress and the Trump administration to remove the anti-competitive provisions on prescription drug pricing from the USMCA.