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The Biden administration picks the first 10 drugs for Medicare price negotiation


The Inflation Reduction Act gives the federal government the power to negotiate the price of certain drugs from Medicare. The Biden administration has released the list of the first 10 prescription drugs Medicare will start with, and some of those names might be familiar to you from TV ads or maybe even your medicine cabinet - Eliquis and Xarelto, which are blood thinners, and Jardiance, which is a diabetes medicine, just to name three. NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin reports this marks a change to prescription drug policy that's been decades in the making.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: The new prices that the federal government will eventually negotiate for these prescription drugs won't actually go into effect until 2026, and that's if it's not tied up in lawsuits from drugmakers. Ameet Sarpatwari is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He says this list of initial drugs...

AMEET SARPATWARI: It is really the bell for the first round. I mean, this is going to be a heavyweight battle.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: The heavyweights in this match are the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry.

SARPATWARI: Pharma is definitely pulling out all the stops.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Lobbying, lawsuits, ad campaigns.

SARPATWARI: It makes sense why it's fighting so hard. It doesn't want to lose any ground whatsoever.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: The context here is that on average, prices for prescription drugs in the U.S. are way higher than they are elsewhere. Other similar countries have ways to assess medications and figure out how much is this worth? To date, the U.S. government has not. Professor Stacie Dusetzina of Vanderbilt Medical School says that's why it's going to take so long. The U.S. has to create a whole new structure for defining a fair price.

STACIE DUSETZINA: That includes a lot of back-and-forth with the drug companies about things like their research and development costs, the cost of manufacturing the drugs.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: The idea here is not just to make the 10 drugs on this list cost less to the people who need them. It's to use those savings to make Medicare more generous for all 60 million people in the program. Now, drugmakers call this whole effort government price setting. They say it'll hamper innovation and new cures. But Dusetzina says it remains to be seen how this actually affects the economy and the drug industry and the prices you pay when you go to the drugstore, since in this country it's never been tried before.

Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News.

: [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the broadcast version of this report, we mispronounced the name of one of the drugs. The correct name is Eliquis. The reference has been corrected in the audio available online.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.