Bulletin, Member News

Prescription Drugs: Advancing Ideas to Improve Access, Affordability, and Innovation

Author: Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Recently, prescription drugs have been in the news a lot, particularly with respect to their cost.  Millions of Americans rely on prescription medications to manage chronic illnesses or treat acute conditions, and drug innovation has resulted in better health outcomes for people across our nation. Because of this, finding ways to improve affordability and access for patients, supporting and increasing innovation in the industry, and – most importantly – making people healthier has become an area of significant interest to many.

As medicines become more precise and targeted, there is the potential to develop new generations of therapies that enable interventions to be better tailored to groups of people and even individuals. Medications in the future can improve health outcomes for many diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, and help us better manage our chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and depression, providing significant benefits to patients across the country.

In order to have the maximum impact, medications must also be affordable and accessible.  This is an important issue for Americans and for patients, businesses, and governments. Surveys suggest that as many as 25 percent of Americans cannot afford and, therefore, do not fill the prescriptions on which they depend. And, spending on medicines increased 13 percent in 2014, compared to 5 percent for health care spending growth overall, the highest rate of drug spending growth since 2001. An important element of this increase in costs is due to new specialty drugs — drugs that account for nearly a third of overall costs, but represent less than 1 percent of prescriptions.

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