The Drug Pricing ‘Slippery Slope’

The Drug Pricing ‘Slippery Slope’

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch


Kristopher Radder/Associated Press

Progressives are disappointed with the tentative drug-pricing deal that Senate Majority Leader

Chuck Schumer

appears to have struck with West Virginia’s

Joe Manchin.

But no worries, says Vermont Rep.

Peter Welch,

the price controls are merely the start of what will be a long raid on drug makers to fund Democratic spending ambitions.

The Senate drug agreement would require the Health and Human Services Secretary to “negotiate” prices for 10 of the top-spending drugs in Medicare starting next year and 20 by the end of the decade. If drug makers don’t accept the government’s offered price, they would get slapped with a 95% excise tax on their sales. Take his offer or else.

These sham negotiations would for now be restricted to small-molecule drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for at least nine years and biologics that have been on the market for 13. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds the price controls would nonetheless apply to most of Medicare’s top-spending drugs.

Yet progressives are upset—when are they ever happy?—that the deal doesn’t give the secretary carte blanche authority to impose price controls for all drugs. This would be tantamount to dropping a nuclear bomb on the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, which would cause immediate and widespread collateral damage.

Now Mr. Welch is trying to console his fellow progressives who couldn’t get moderate Senate Democrats to blow up the industry all at once. “Don’t underestimate the power of the slippery slope. That’s exactly why pharma fights so hard. They know if we get price negotiation, it’s the beginning, it’s not the end,” he told StatNews.

On the politics, Mr. Welch is surely right. Once…

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