Oct 5, 2017

Why the AMA doesn’t support federal drug price controls

The American Medical Association convened doctors this week. Photo: Bob Herman / Axios

The American Medical Association says it supports the idea of the federal government negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. But a top AMA leader made it clear to a roomful of doctors Wednesday that the group will never accept "price-fixing" — and suggested that's largely because of economic self-interest.

Key quote: "What we are very concerned about at the AMA level, if we advocated for the price-fixing of pharmaceuticals, we have no leg to stand on if we say we don't like price-fixing for physicians." — Barbara McAneny, AMA president-elect

Why it matters: The question was about negotiating drug prices, but McAneny answered it with an argument against government-set price controls — and in doing so, sounded like she viewed them as one and the same. An AMA spokesman insists the organization hasn't changed its official policy, which says it supports negotiating Medicare Part D drug prices.

Between the lines: Many health care industry groups are united in opposing government price-setting because, they argue, it would contradict free-market principles and could stifle innovation. But don't look past the obvious: Groups are protecting their incomes.

Context: McAneny, an oncologist, made her comments in Chicago at a meeting of the AMA's Relative Value Scale Update Committee, an influential panel known as the RUC. A crowd member asked her if the AMA was "missing an opportunity to throw the weight of our collective influence" behind asking the federal government to negotiate drug prices, which Medicare cannot do by law.

  • The AMA has been outspoken about rising drug prices and the factors behind them. "There's a lot of places where we can look at significant amounts of waste," McAneny said after calling out pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies and specialty pharmacies.
  • However, official AMA policy currently "opposes the use of price controls in any segment of the health care industry, and continues to promote market-based strategies to achieve access to and affordability of health care goods and services." Instead, it backs transparency measures like requiring drug companies to post prices in ads.

Looking ahead: The RUC's main business of examining new payment rates for physician services starts Thursday. Medicare has said it would adopt nearly all of the RUC's recommendations for the upcoming year.

Correction: The headline and story have been updated to clarify the AMA's distinction between drug price negotiations and government price controls.

Go deeper

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Milwaukee Molson Coors brewery complex on Wednesday, including the shooter, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

What's happening: Police said "there is no active threat" just before 6 pm ET, but noted the scene remains active. Police chief Alfonso Morales told reporters that officers have "more than 20 buildings we have to secure" at the complex and they do not currently have all employees accounted for, as more than 1,000 were at the complex during the shooting.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Live updates: CDC confirms possible community spread of coronavirus

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

U.S. clinicians have found the novel coronavirus in a person who did not recently return from a foreign country nor have contact with a confirmed case, the CDC said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 32 mins ago - Health

Trump assigns Pence to lead U.S. coronavirus response


President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy