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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.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

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