JCNF Op-EdAppeared in PennLive on May 5, 2024By Dr. Robert Campbell

Bipartisan legislation is a good first step in rolling back government drug price controls | Opinion

The Biden administration recently unveiled a new $7 billion grant to prop up solar power—a move that comes days after announcing an oil drilling ban in much of Alaska’s rich petroleum preserve. Relying on the government to pick winners and losers rather than the free market will have serious consequences.

 In this case, less reliable “green” energy will increasingly box out proven ways to heat our homes and power our cars.

 But Joe Biden’s misguided central-planning crusade extends well beyond energy. The White House and its allies in Congress are putting American lives at risk by inserting Uncle Sam into the country’s innovative medical sector. Policymakers need to start untangling the mess they’ve created before it does too much damage.

The misnamed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) encapsulates much of the Biden administration’s health care funny business. The federal legislation, which was signed into law in 2022, implements a series of government price controls on medicine accessed through Medicare that discourage innovation.

Because the law forces drugmakers to provide some pharmaceuticals at a fraction of the cost it would take to recoup research and development investments, accounting departments are put between a rock and a hard place. As a result, patients will experience fewer new lifesaving treatments, therapies, and vaccines coming to market.

One analysis estimates it could amount to a 40 percent reduction of new products being introduced to patients over the next decade.

While the current divided government makes an outright repeal of this provision a political impossibility, proposals that eat away at the edges enjoy bipartisan support. A prime example is the Ensuring Pathways to Innovative Cures (EPIC) Act, federal legislation that was introduced earlier this year. The bill levels the playing field between different types of pharmaceutical products in the eyes of the IRA.

More specifically, buried deep in the federal government’s new drug price controls are arbitrary timelines for when the regulations apply to biological drugs versus small molecule drugs, which are often taken in pill form. The former is exempt from the government puppet strings for 13-years after approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while the latter only has a nine-year runway.

The disparity acts as a de facto penalty for manufacturers, investors, and research labs that are pursuing innovations within the small molecule space. In practice, the policy will have a chilling effect on breakthroughs in this category of medication, which often encompasses oncology therapies because of its unique ability to penetrate cancerous cells.

A University of Chicago analysis, for example, finds the price manipulations will lead to nearly 200 fewer treatment advances within small molecule drugs over the next two decades. The EPIC Act would simply amend the Inflation Reduction Act to equalize the exemption periods regardless of medicine type. It’s a no-brainer that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to get behind.

The Biden administration’s domestic strategy has centered around manipulating the free market by either leveraging taxpayer dollars or applying heavy-handed government regulations. Drug price controls is one plank of that agenda that threatens to backfire big time.

Passing the bipartisan EPIC Act would be a good first step in rolling it back.

Dr. Robert Campbell is a practicing anesthesiologist in Lebanon County and a partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.