By Carrie Collins-Fadell – Executive Director, Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona
In Arizona, there are at least 45,000 individuals living with a brain injury. If you are one of these survivors, you know firsthand how catastrophic brain injuries can be, often affecting an individual’s ability to speak, think, or move. Not to mention that the damage is, more often than not, irreversible. As a result, recovering from and living with a brain injury is a process that frequently requires extensive and specialized medical care.
For these reasons, our organization works tirelessly with local, state, and federal governments to promote increased access to high-quality healthcare and cutting-edge medication for the patients we represent. Front and center in the fight for healthcare access is the issue of rising prescription drug costs, a mainstay issue in our society that has been detrimental for millions of Americans. However, amid the unprecedented onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are facing the greatest public health crisis of their lifetimes. Now, more than ever, they need policy reforms that will ease the blow of the economic recession.
In an effort to address the issue of prescription drug costs, the Administration has announced an executive order that contains policies aimed at the biopharmaceutical industry. Most concerning is the Trump Administration’s push to put forth a Most Favored Nation (MFN) executive order. If implemented, this misguided proposal would enact price controls on prescription drugs in Medicare Part B, a program utilized by millions of vulnerable patients to access critical treatments and therapies. In this way, the MFN model would be similar to that of the International Pricing Index (IPI), basing the price of a prescription drug off how much that drug may cost in particular foreign “reference” countries.
This policy is dangerous because it ties our drug costs to the costs of medication in countries that have single-payer healthcare systems. As a result, patients in these countries experience longer wait times and limited access to innovative treatments. Not to mention, these governments ration care to control spending, and therefore physicians are almost always limited in the treatments they are able to provide patients. In the U.S., patients dealing with serious medical issues, such as brain injuries, are able to work with their physicians to tailor their treatment plans because of the flexibility and autonomy our healthcare system offers. If implemented, MFN will destroy this flexibility that patients and physicians need, leading to poorer health outcomes that will ripple throughout our healthcare system.
Most importantly, as we are currently thrust into the middle of a global public health crisis, it is imperative that the Administration promote policy reforms that help foster innovation and competition. Unfortunately, price controls will handcuff the pharmaceutical industry that is working to find a vaccine to fight the pandemic and develop breakthrough treatments to combat diseases like brain cancer and Alzheimer’s. Without the resources to discover them, dozens, if not hundreds of new medical breakthroughs, will never come to fruition.
The Brain Injury Alliance greatly appreciates the Administration’s commitment to finding solutions that will lower drug costs, especially for those who depend on the Medicare Part B program. However, we need common-sense solutions that do not model our healthcare system after those whose governments determine the treatments available to patients. If it weren’t for the vast number of therapies and treatment options available to American patients and physicians, recovery would be practically impossible for individuals living with brain injuries.
Before casting wide-net policies, I encourage policymakers in Washington to think about how important it is that the U.S. continues to foster a healthcare system that is a world leader in providing patients access to cutting-edge treatments and the highest quality of care.