The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) respectfully submits the following statement for the record to the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Drugs: Perspectives from the Front Lines.
ASHP represents pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in acute and ambulatory settings. The organization’s more than 43,000 members include pharmacists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. For over 70 years, ASHP has been at the forefront of efforts to improve medication use and enhance patient safety. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists advance healthcare, visit ASHP’s website, www.ashp.org, or its consumer website, www.safemedication.com.
ASHP’s vision is that medication use will be optimal, safe, and effective for people, all of the time. A primary tenet of that vision includes access to affordable medications needed to save or sustain life. Over the past several months, many ASHP members have brought to our attention an alarming trend in the generic drug market. Products that have been on the market for years and are largely considered essential to patient care have undergone dramatic price increases. ASHP is concerned that this trend may make some medications inaccessible to patients, and could have serious public health consequences. Furthermore, these price increases have placed enormous budgetary pressure on healthcare organizations, and long-term absorption of these rapid and unpredictable price increases is unsustainable.
ASHP does not collect, store, or report drug pricing information. However, we continually hear from our members that sudden, inexplicable price increases in connection with some of the most commonly used, longstanding generic medications are becoming more prevalent, and are occurring on a nationwide basis. ASHP is pleased that the Senate Select Committee on Aging is holding this hearing, and we are eager to learn more about why these price spikes are occurring and to explore potential policy options and market-based solutions that may exist to prevent or minimize the likelihood of this occurring in the future.
In particular, ASHP would like to learn more about the marketplace dynamics that could contribute to this problem. For example, if there is a lack of competition in the generic marketplace, we urge the committee to look at ways to stimulate more marketplace presence. One policy option that has been mentioned is to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to prioritize Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) and to fast-track approval of products, the prices of which have significantly increased and which have little or no competition in the market. ASHP supports further examination of and dialogue in connection with this potential policy option.
Additionally, concern over this trend has triggered inquiries by state and federal authorities. The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the New York State Attorney General, have launched investigations into these price increases. ASHP is interested in any findings these inquiries uncover and any potential policy options that may emerge.
ASHP thanks the Committee for holding this important hearing, and we look forward to learning more about the causes and potential solutions to this problem. Additionally, ASHP remains committed to working with Congress and industry stakeholders to ensure that patients have affordable access to life-saving and life-sustaining medications.