Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

Last week, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee had a hearing titled “At What Cost: Oversight of How the IRA’s Price Setting Scheme Means Fewer Cures for Patients” to discuss oversight of the Biden administration’s price setting scheme. The hearing exposed how dangerous Democrats’ price controls really are.

The hearing started with opening remarks from Representative Morgan Griffith (R-Va) Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. In his opening remarks, Chair Griffith condemned the scheme as “unconstitutional” as pricing negotiations between the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and drug companies are coercive and “mafia-like.” He described that the aim of this hearing was to focus on what aspects of the price setting scheme would be most harmful to patients and pharmaceutical innovation.

Following Chair Griffith’s remarks, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) presented her opening remarks as the Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. She asserted that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was forcing pharmaceutical companies to discontinue Phase 1 trials for treatments for rare diseases and “closing windows of hope for patients, families, and caregivers”. Chairwoman Rodgers also expressed concern that America will join other drug price-controlled countries who suffer from a lack of innovation in their pharmaceutical offerings.

The witness testimonies started with Mr. John Czwartacki, who is the founder of Survivors for Solutions. Mr. Czwartacki was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1993.

When he was first diagnosed, there wasn’t a single disease-modifying treatment, or DMT, to slow his disease’s progression, but thanks to a decade-earlier bipartisan congressional compromise, the medical innovation ecosystem was thriving and would afford him multiple MS treatments to consider years to come. Czwartacki credited medical innovation and science for giving him his family, an extensive career in public policy, and independence. The IRA, however, ends four decades of bipartisan agreement that supported innovation and saved lives. This partisan bill will ration care. Czwartacki used his health journey as a testament to the importance of protecting innovation but is one of many patient stories that lawmakers need to consider before doubling down on harmful policies.

The next testimony was from Dr. Steve Potts who is a Chair on the Drug Development Council in the International Cancer Advocacy Network. Dr. Potts stated that the IRA has made new small molecule R&D for diseases of aging nearly impossible – which is particularly bad, not just for small company drug developers, but also for people who suffer from diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The witness who spoke next was John Crowley who serves as the Executive Chairman at Amicus Therapeutics, Inc. Mr. Crowley began his testimony with a touching personal anecdote. Both his son and daughter were diagnosed with Pompe disease in their infancy, a rare and fatal neuromuscular genetic disorder. To fight this disease, Mr. Crowley co-founded a small biotechnology company to develop a medicine for Pompe. With this company he was able to develop a lifesaving enzyme replacement therapy that saved both of his children’s lives. Crowley stated that inspiring stories like his family’s would not be possible under the IRA price setting scheme.

The witnesses’ expert testimony and personal stories hold true in the data, and already-seen real world effects.

Even before implementation, several drug manufacturers have already warned of development programs they had to end or will likely have to end, including Eli Lilly, Alnylam, Bristol Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Sage Therapeutics, Amgen, etc.

One study, conducted by Tomas J. Philipson and Giuseppe Di Cera out of the University of Chicago, details how the IRA’s price control provisions will lower R&D activity so drastically that it will result in 135 fewer new drugs, generating a loss of 331.5 million life years in the United States, more lost life years than the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

The loss in R&D spending on cancer treatments alone will total $18.1 billion annually, wiping out nearly a third of the current annual spending on this research. This is particularly ironic given President Biden’s alleged goal to eradicate cancer through his “Cancer Moonshot” program.

Ultimately, the government enacted price controls built within the IRA present tremendous consequences to drug developers and patients alike.