A second opinion on prescription drug policy
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If there is one issue that all Americans can agree on these days, it is that prescription drug costs are too high. America must find a solution: a solution that lowers prices but at the same time does not stop life-saving medical cures from reaching the market. Unfortunately the Democratic House plans to pass H.R. 3, a misguided solution that would impose governmental price controls. Price controls have never worked, and they won’t work to solve the high cost of prescription drugs either.

H.R. 3 would likely lead to the elimination of several life-saving medicines for Americans. In countries that implement price controls, evidence shows that only a fraction of new drugs brought to the market are available. For instance, Australia had access to only 36 percent of new drugs released between 2011 and 2018 according to data collected by IQVIA. Canada and the United Kingdom hardly fared better with 46 and 59 percent availability of new drugs in their markets respectively. Meanwhile in the United States 88 percent of new drugs were available as options for disease treatment. Like every American, I want choices when it comes to the medicines that my family and I take. There are better ways to keep drug prices down while also maintaining the availability of life-saving medicines.

As a practicing physician of 30 years (and by the way, I still practice while in Congress), let me offer a second opinion to solve the high cost of prescription drugs. Rather than instituting arbitrary price controls which will limit the availability of drugs, hamper the development of new drugs and potentially drive high paying American research and development (R&D) jobs overseas, Congress should pass legislation to rein in abusive practices used by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), the “middlemen” between drug developers, insurance companies and pharmacies. Numerous states have lowered drug costs by passing legislation that regulates PBMs. Republicans in Congress introduced a bill earlier this week, H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, that would do exactly that and, more appropriately, strike the balance between lowering costs and fostering innovation. I proudly co-sponsored this action. By compelling PBMs to publicly report the amount they pay for drugs, they would be less likely to cut deals with drug manufacturers to maximize their profits at the expense of patients. America simply doesn’t need middlemen driving up the cost of medications.

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The Lower Costs, More Cures Act would also help address surprise billing. By requiring companies to make drug costs available at the doctor’s office, physicians could prescribe the correct and affordable options for their patients on the front end before they get surprised at the pharmacy. Further the bill would put an end to America’s subsidization of the international drug market.

Additionally, I believe Congress should deal with Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertising. The United States is one of only two countries in the world that allows DTC advertising and it is a practice that should be curtailed if not eliminated. A study conducted by Thomson Reuters Financial Data found that from 2011 to 2015, nine out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. spent more on advertising than they do on R&D. Would you rather pay less for your medicine or see it advertised on television? This is a major reason Canadian drugs are cheaper. We don’t need more Super Bowl commercials. We need cheaper drugs.

As a physician, I promise you these advertisements do nothing to persuade which drug is the best to prescribe. They drive up the cost of drugs and that comes out of everyone’s pocket.

These are ways the United States can lower drug prices while at the same time supporting an industry that saves lives. Instituting price controls is not the appropriate response, and that is why I cannot support H.R. 3.

Greg Murphy has been a practicing surgeon in North Carolina for more than 25 years. In September, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents the 3rd District of North Carolina.