“A Problem We Must Solve” (You & Your Health)

A top government health official calls skyrocketing drug prices, “a problem we must solve.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell made the comment during a forum on drug costs today.

From The Hill:

“We know that too many Americans struggle to afford the medications they need,” she (Burwell) said. “A recent Kaiser survey showed that almost a quarter of Americans have skipped filling a prescription over the last year.”

The forum exploring solutions to high prescription drug prices is the latest event in a season of increased scrutiny of high drug prices that has put the pharmaceutical industry on edge.

Burwell also made it a point to praise the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to innovate, according to the Washington Times, but continued to hammer home the need to keep prescription prices affordable.

“New drugs have revolutionized treatment and improved cure rates,” she said. “Treatments, however, can cost more than $100,000. And that’s an issue for both patients and the organizations and governments that serve them.” 

This comes on the heels of a recent HealthDay/Harris Poll study that claims most Americans now support aggressive regulation to keep health care costs in check — including price caps on drugs, medical devices and payments to doctors and hospitals. And the AARP just released a report earlier today that claims prices for more than 100 widely used specialty prescription drugs shot up by nearly 11 percent in 2013.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, drug makers claim “there is a mistaken belief that drug prices are driving up health-care costs. They say spending on retail prescriptions has stayed steady at about 10% of health-care spending.”

But the article also had the insurance industry pointing the finger at rising drug prices as a reason behind higher insurance rates. “We’re all bearing drug makers’ excessive pricing, and the increases are a direct reflection of those cost pressures,” said Marilyn Tavenner, chief executive of American’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents about 1,300 companies.

We want to hear your thoughts on this critical health issue. Do you think the government should play a role to protect consumers or should the feds stay out of this fight? And how do you think we can strike a balance bewteen innovation and affordability?

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