These days, you don’t have to be a healthcare expert to be aware that drug pricing has been at the center stage of public debate. Sparked by controversy surrounding price hikes by companies such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Mylan, news and analysis of drug pricing has dominated the headlines of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and many more publications in 2016. In response, pharmaceutical companies have justified prices based on the steep amount they have to spend on research and development. A 2014 study by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimated that it costs $2.6 billion to get a drug approved.
Recently this issue has also been tied to the presidential election, as both candidates have promised action. Clinton has proposed a range of measures to cut back on prices, including re-importation of drugs under standards set by the FDA. Trump has also said the U.S. should allow cheaper pharmaceutical drugs manufactured abroad to be sold in the United States. Although the candidates may not agree on much, this is one issue they are aligned on – something needs to be done about drug prices.
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In California, drug makers like Merck and Pfizer have been fighting another decision to be made come November – a ballot called Proposition 61, which would require the state of California to negotiate with drug companies for prices that are not higher than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) pays for the same drugs.
Ultimately, when it comes to pricing, a balance needs to be struck between a fair return to pharmaceutical companies for the innovation that they are delivering and a cost that allows patients to access the drugs that they need.
As PR practitioners working with clients in the bio and pharma space, it is our job not only to keep them abreast of the latest conversations, trends and industry dialogue associated with issues such as drug pricing, but also to work closely with them to navigate these oftentimes tumultuous waters. It's our job to help them leverage or avoid as appropriate to ensure the quality and integrity of their brand and best position the company in a way that aligns to its core messages, mission and vision.
Kathryn McMahon is an account supervisor with PAN Communications, an award-winning integrated communications firm located in Boston, MA.