Although the debate over the replacement for Obamacare in on hold for the time being, there is still much that can be done to lower the cost of healthcare. Case in point are the cost prescription drugs which over 77 percent of Americans feel are unreasonable. Trump’s new nomination for the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government agency in charge of approving new drugs, agrees and has some ideas for how to lower those costs.
President Trump recently nominated Scott Gottlieb, who has decades of experience as both a senior executive and scholar, to lead the FDA. From 2005-2007, he served as the FDA’s deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, has been a member of the Federal Health IT Policy Committee, and was a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. While in these roles, Gottlieb’s writings have provided insight on the reforms he might make at the FDA to lower costs for consumers.
For example, Gottlieb has argued that burdensome regulations around the approval process at the FDA are a significant contributor to rising healthcare costs. He highlighted these problems during the debate over the cost of EpiPen, which is used for the emergency treatment of certain allergic reactions. The price has remained high, at over $600 per device.
Since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007, prices have soared and access has decreased. Thus, Americans with life threatening allergies found it difficult to afford the EpiPen. In response to the EpiPen crisis, Gottlieb wrote, “regulations make it hard for competitors to EpiPen to get their products approved as new, branded alternatives to EpiPen through the new drug approval pathway.” Last year, Teva developed a generic version of the EpiPen for half the cost; however, it was rejected by the FDA. Gottlieb may look to ease the drug approval process for generic drug makers like Teva, which would make healthcare more affordable for all Americans.
Another reason some generic drug prices remain high is due to old FDA regulations. Competition has the potential to drive down costs by bringing more companies into the market. Gottlieb has argued that, “the agency’s long and costly approach to regulating generic drugs is reducing competition in the generic market and increasing the cost of manufacturing generic medicines.” Scrapping old regulations will bolster the development of generic medications, which would provide consumers with lower prices and more options.
Additionally, the government regulations which force companies to charge a single price for drugs has ironically prevented access to lower cost alternatives. This practice prevents competition among pharmaceutical companies which could lead to lower prices. Scrapping these laws according to Gottlieb, could “enable medicines to be sold more cheaply, while still preserving the incentives that have fueled our exceptional level of domestic drug innovation.”
If confirmed as the FDA Commissioner, Gottlieb has a tough road ahead to develop solutions to lower drug prices. But his qualifications and desire to remove some of the most burdensome red tape show he might be just the man for the job.