The annual Biotechnology Industry Organization convention is usually focused on drumming up business, but this year the debate about drug prices is center stage.
Massachusetts is a key player at this week's San Francisco convention, according to a story in The Boston Globe, because of its efforts to address skyrocketing prescription drug prices. It seems as if the pharmaceutical industry is finally moving beyond complaining about criticism to addressing these concerns before reform is forced upon it.
A bill offered by state Senator Mark C. Montigny mandating lower drug prices is attracting the interest of other states. Attorney General Maura Healey's approach is to pressure Big Pharma giant Gilead Sciences to lower the prices of its two hepatitis C medicines, which currently cost $84,000 and $94,500 respectively for 12-week treatments, or face unfair trade practice charges. The Boston-based Institute for Clinical and Economic Review is encouraging the setting of "value-based" pricing for new drugs based on their effectiveness in practice.
Pharmaceutical companies have grown comfortable setting exorbitant drug prices for no other apparent reason than to increase profit margins and executive bonuses. Consumer groups have joined health insurers in protest. Drug costs are the fastest-growing component of health spending, rising 13 percent in the state since 2014, according to a Health Policy Commission report cited in The Globe.
Big Pharma is now at least willing to consider reform measures, which is in large part due to Massachusetts' insistence upon change. Like most complex health care problems, the drug pricing issue requires a national solution, and if Massachusetts' example is followed around the nation, that solution may be found.