By Henry Well
Executive Director, South Carolina Cancer Alliance
Cancer touches each of our lives in one way or another. In South Carolina alone, over 10,800 lives will be taken by this deadly disease in 2022.
In fact, cancer is the second leading cause of death in our state, and patients rely heavily on the treatments that allow them to continue living their lives. For that reason, prescriptions must be made easily accessible, as severe diseases like cancer often require patients to take a combination of medications to maintain their health.
But buying a variety of prescriptions isn’t cheap, and especially during this period of record-high inflation, patients simply can’t afford to bear additional healthcare costs. Increased prescription costs would lessen cancer survivors’ ability to afford essential treatments. And for patients throughout the United States, one piece of legislation would make this financial nightmare a reality.
The new reconciliation package would harm cancer patients by taking money from Medicare, disrupting a program that patients depend on for access and affordability, and ultimately obstructing the ability of pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs and treatments efficiently.
But it doesn’t stop there. The bill will saddle manufacturers with a tax if they don’t abide by government-set prices. Government price controls would decrease the resources available for any future medical innovation by forcing the biopharmaceutical industry to cut expenses where cancer survivors need it the most: research and development (R&D).
Without R&D, new treatments and advances in cancer research are essentially impossible. Government interference in the form of federal price controls would effectively divest companies of the resources they need to provide new research and testing. As a result, biopharmaceutical companies are much slower to manufacture, approve, and deliver cutting-edge treatments to patients in need.
Under the new reconciliation bill’s system of price controls, the entire healthcare system would be less efficient, less effective, and worse for wear. And the data backs this up. According to a 2021 study from the University of Chicago, the imposition of new drug price controls would lead to a loss of up to 1/5 of R&D investments by 2039, and the CBO estimates 15 fewer drugs will come to market over the next 10 years. As a result, the industry will produce fewer new treatments and breakthrough medicines—and patients would pay the price.
Each of those investments represents hope for a group of patients struggling with a potentially life-threatening disease. The prospect of a new treatment—a breakthrough cure—is all too often their lifeline for these individuals and their families. That’s not something we should ever take away.
Patients deserve access to healthcare that meets their medical needs, and implementing drug price controls is not the way for lawmakers to do this. During an economically challenging time such as this one, people cannot afford to pay more for the care they need. Congress must reconsider the dangerous imposition of healthcare price controls on behalf of cancer patients everywhere.
Henry Well is the Executive Director of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance.