Senator Chuck Grassley in conversation with Axios' Bob Herman. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios' Bob Herman hosted a series of conversations exploring the future of health care costs and drug pricing.

Why it matters: Bob sat down with leaders across the sector, including Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Debbie Stabenow, the President & CEO of the Association for Accessible Medicines, Mr. Chester 'Chip' Davis Jr., and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the Former Commissioner of the FDA to break down their perspectives on drug pricing in America and discuss potential solutions to rising costs in care.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, discussed legislative efforts to make prescription medication more affordable, and stressed the importance of increasing transparency in pricing. He also touched on the challenges of "pay for delay" patent settlements that limit the presence of generic medications on the market.

  • On bipartisan collaboration: "What Democrats want to do is not so different from what Republicans want to do...I believe we have a real opportunity this time."
  • On having consumers understand drug pricing: "Take the secrecy out of all this pricing and make sure we know exactly how the process works."
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
Senator Debbie Stabenow discusses the risks of high drug prices. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, unpacked the social and economic costs that high drug prices have on Americans.

  • On the burden of drug prices: "The fastest growing part of heath care costs...is the cost of prescriptions, bar none."
  • On America's uniquely high health care costs: "American taxpayers need to be able to buy their medicine. We pay the highest prices in the world."

Sen. Stabenow also highlighted the inflation of the price of the opioid overdose-fighting drug, Naloxone.

  • "In 2005, the generic version was sold for $1 a vial...then we have an epidemic and we see costs as high as $4,000 a vial."
  • "I'm not exaggerating, this is life or death for people."
Mr. Chester 'Chip' Davis Jr., President & CEO, Association for Accessible Medicines
Chester 'Chip' Davis Jr. answers a question about biosimilars from Axois' Bob Herman. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Chester 'Chip' Davis Jr., the President & CEO of the Association for Accessible Medicines discussed how generic and biosimilar pharmaceuticals have the potential to reduce costs for patients, and the current obstacles to getting more of them on the market.

  • On current trend lines reflecting decreasing competition: “When companies are facing sustainability problems, they’re not cutting corners...they’re cutting their portfolios. One may have carried 800 generic drugs, this year they’re only carrying 600."
  • How the number of prescriptions doesn't reflect generic prescription spending: “I’m not a fan for increasing the utilization for generics above 90%...the challenge that we have is every year the percent of generic prescriptions is going up, and the percent of generic spend is going down.”
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration
Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, discussed market competition in the pharmaceutical industry, covering how to drive utilization of biosimilars and touching on topics like insurable risks and gene therapies.

  • On Medicare's potential: "Medicare’s a big purchaser of these biologics...if we have a scheme with Part B like we have with Part D where we give preferential treatment to biosimilars, you can drive utilization."
  • "We thought [biosimilar pharmaceuticals] would be natural monopolies, and they're not."

Thank you Pfizer for sponsoring this event.

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