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President Obama: Let Medicare officials negotiate drug prices

Current law prohibits such negotiating

In his recent 2016 budget request to Congress, President Barack Obama expressed growing concerns over the high costs of Medicare prescription drugs. His solution to the problem: Let Medicare officials negotiate prices with drug manufacturers, reported the New York Times. Currently, federal law prohibits such negotiations.

"The rising cost of specialty drugs has the potential to bankrupt our healthcare system," John D. Bennett, president of the Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, told the Times. "What good is a miracle drug if you can't afford it?"

While over 40 million Medicare beneficiaries receive prescription drugs through the program, overall costs have been less than previously projected in 2003. Even still, the costly drugs post a big challenge for both the government and individuals covered through Medicare who end up paying between 25 percent to 33 percent of the cost of such drugs, noted the article.

Medical initiatives are underway to develop treatments for chronic diseases that hopefully, in turn, will offset the price of drugs. However, prices remain steep: Pfizer's Xalkori, a lung cancer drug for people with a genetic abnormality detected in a government-approved test, is $12,000 a month.

"It would be unfortunate if we make scientific progress and then price patients out of the drugs we develop through that progress," Peter B. Bach, M.D., director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the Times.

As of late, insurers and state Medicaid agencies alike have been eager to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical companies, especially considering the backlash Gilead's hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi received last year after the company placed a $100,000 per person price tag on the drug.

For more:
- here's the Times article

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