WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the manufacturers of all of the first 10 prescription drugs selected for Medicare’s first price negotiations have agreed to participate, clearing the way for talks that could lower their costs in coming years and give him a potential political win heading into next year’s election.
The drugs include the blood thinner Eliquis, which the White House said was used by more than 3.7 million Medicare enrollees from June of last year through this past May and had an average out-of-pocket cost of $608 per enrollee for 2022. Also included is diabetes treatment Jardiance, which was used by nearly 1.6 million Medicare enrollees and had a 2022 out-of-pocket cost per enrollee of $490.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in August the first 10 drugs selected for the negotiation process and said manufacturers had until Monday to agree to participate and submit manufacturer-specific data. In all last year, 9 million seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries paid more than $3.4 billion on these 10 drugs alone, the White House said.
“For decades, drug companies in America made record profits while big pharma worked to block Medicare from being able to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. In fact, Americans now pay two to three times more than people in other countries for the exact same prescription drug made by the exact same company,” Biden said in an online video from the Oval Office. “So, my administration finally took a step to change that.”
How much prices could fall is not yet known. Prices negotiated for the first set of drugs participating won’t go into effect until 2026.
Still, promises to lower prescription drug costs are a key part of Biden’s reelection pitch to voters — even as the Democratic president has so far struggled to convince the public that his administration’s policies have lowered health care expenses and cut other everyday costs. In announcing that price negotiations will go forward, Biden noted that the program was created under the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed last year without any Republican support, and that major pharmaceutical companies have continued to work to stop Medicare from haggling over drug pricing.
Word that the negotiation effort is moving forward coincided with the Biden reelection team’s Tuesday announcement of an ad campaign that will run in places like Atlanta and on national cable channels and television in battleground states highlighting the president’s middle class upbringing and his economic policies meant to improve the lives of working Americans.
The ad is targeting general election audiences on programing including “Dancing With the Stars” and high profile NFL games, the Biden campaign said. It is part of a larger, 16-week, $25 million push targeting voters in key swing areas that was announced last month.
Even with with Tuesday’s prescription drugs announcement, however, the process could still be complicated by lawsuits from drugmakers and sharp criticism from Republicans. Biden noted that the drug manufacturers’ agreeing to participate followed a court decision allowing Medicare price negotiation plans to move forward.
“For many Americans, the cost of one drug is the difference between life and death, dignity and dependence, hope and fear,” Biden said in the video, “And that’s why we’ll continue to fight to lower health care costs and we will not stop until we finish the job.”