Aug 29, 2023 - Health

Pharma companies with Massachusetts ties targeted in Medicare drug talks

Illustration of money pouring into a prescription bottle. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration unveiled Tuesday the first 10 drugs that will undergo Medicare price negotiations in 2023 and 2024, including several from companies with Massachusetts ties.

Why it matters: Federal officials say the negotiations will rein in prices for Americans, who have paid far more than people in other countries for the same life-saving medications.

Driving the news: The companies with drugs on the initial list employ more than 9,000 people in Massachusetts, Kendalle Burlin O'Connell, CEO and president of MassBio, said in a statement to Axios.

Flashback: President Biden signed the drug price negotiations program into law as part of the Inflation Reduction Act last summer, despite criticism from life sciences companies, including several in Massachusetts.

By the numbers: More than 59.8 million people have Medicare benefits, including 1.3 million Bay Staters.

Zoom in: The new law has already changed how some Massachusetts biotech companies do business.

  • One investor, Peter Kolchinsky, told the BBJ earlier this year that he advised a company to develop its drugs differently so they could get a better return on investment in case of future price negotiations.

What they're saying: "The drug price negotiation program, as enacted, will negatively impact drug discovery and innovation and ultimately patients around the world," O'Connell said.

The other side: U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, who represents Massachusetts' fifth district, said in a statement that the negotiations are a victory against "Big Pharma" and that they will help millions of Americans get "access to the medications they need at a price they can afford."

What we're watching: Many of the companies with drugs listed are suing the administration over the negotiations, including Bristol Myers, Merck, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca.

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also sued, calling the negotiations unconstitutional.

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