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Prescription drug pills poured on top of money

Lowering Pharmacy Drug Costs Highlighted in Biden’s State of the Union

Lowering pharmacy drug costs was one of the healthcare topics highlighted in President Joe Biden’s annual State of the Union address delivered on March 1, 2022.

Of course, when it came to healthcare in the speech, the COVID-19 pandemic was front and center.

“Biden called for people to get vaccinated, for children to get vaccinated, and for production and distribution of antiviral pills to protect vulnerable people,” reported NPR.

“Last year COVID-19 kept us apart. This year we are finally together again,” Biden said after greeting those gathered at the United States Capitol to hear the speech. “We’ve reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, with severe cases down to a level not seen since last July … Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.”

Inflation Fighting Plan: Cut Cost of Prescription Drugs

Biden, in the speech, unveiled his plan to fight inflation, which he said 17 Nobel laureates in economics say will ease long-term inflationary pressures.

One of the tenets of this inflation-fighting plan was cutting the cost of prescription drugs for Americans.

HealthSystemTracker.org said that in 2019, the U.S. spent $1,126 per person on prescribed medicines compared to an average of $552 for other countries.

“First – cut the cost of prescription drugs,” said Biden, who highlighted the costs of insulin, which he said cost about $10 a vial to make but drug companies charge patients up to 30 times more. He suggested capping insulin costs at $35 per month.

Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices

Biden also suggested that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs like the Veterans Administration currently does.

One path to lower pharmacy drug bills and lessening Medicare’s bottom line burden is via pharmacogenomics testing (PGx) which uses advanced molecular-based tests to find out how a person’s genes affect how they respond to commonly prescribed medications.

PGx testing can not only optimize prescriptions for patients but limit adverse drug effects and lower prescription drug costs by eliminating costly trial and error medicine.

“[PGx] tests are generally covered (with a few exceptions) … to improve safety in the use of specific medications by avoiding potentially harmful medications, doses and/or adverse reactions known to occur with certain genotypes,” says CMS.gov.

Other Healthcare Takeaways in the State of the Union

Besides Biden’s pitch to lower Americans’ prescription drug costs, his State of the Union address included some other healthcare takeaways.

Becker’s Hospital Review highlighted the following from the speech:

  • COVID-19: As expected there was plenty of time in the speech devoted to the pandemic response including the announcement of a “test to treat” program where people can test for COVID-19 at a pharmacy, and if they prove positive, can receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.

    “We’re leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward,” said Biden.

    Biden said Pfizer was “working overtime” to provide the U.S. with 1 million of the antiviral pills, Paxlovid, by the end of March, and at least another 2 million by the end of April.

    Paxlovid, according to Pfizer, has been “authorized for emergency use by the FDA under an EUA, for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighting at least 88 pounds) with positive results of direct SARS CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.”

    Biden also announced more rapid at-home COVID-19 tests would be made available, free to the public.

    “Even if you already ordered free tests tonight, I am announcing that you can order more from covidtests.gov starting next week,” said Biden.

    Biden also said the Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.
  • Pediatric Mental Health: Biden said that pediatric mental health will be a priority. His fiscal year 2023 budget will propose that all insurers cover robust behavioral health services with an adequate provider network, including three behavioral health visits annually without cost sharing
    “Let’s take on mental health. Especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down,” said Biden. “Children were also struggling before the pandemic. Bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media.”
  • Clinician Mental Health: Biden said he plans to sign a clinician mental health bill. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a $103 million plan in January to reduce burnout and promote mental health and wellness among health care workers.

    Biden said the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, when signed into law, will invest $135 million over three years into training health care providers on suicide prevention and behavioral health while launching an awareness campaign to address the stigmatization, promote help-seeking and self-care among this workforce.

    The White House released a fact sheet calling for solutions to America’s “National Mental Health Crisis.” “Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages,” said Biden.

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