Julio Fuentes: Florida needs lower drug prices today, innovation to protect drugs of tomorrow

These types of policies would send Florida and the rest of the nation backward.

Skyrocketing drug prices present an enormous problem for Floridians, and the harshest consequences will continue to fall on the state’s most vulnerable — including those who are disabled or elderly. ​​No one should have to forgo what keeps them safe and healthy, but as costs continue to rise, many feel they have no choice but to stop taking their prescription medications.

It’s clear that Florida — and the rest of the nation — needs legislation aimed at meaningfully addressing the drug affordability problem. Patients would benefit tremendously from bipartisan proposals that would lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers and ensure the future of those who produce the pharmaceuticals we all need.

As head of Florida’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I can attest to how vital it is to Florida’s economy to make sure our state’s low-income residents can continue to afford their medicines while avoiding steps that could hinder the pharmaceutical industry’s scientific advancements.

What would bring real relief to these patients at the pharmacy counter is establishing a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs in Medicare Part D. Another proposal to bring much-needed cost predictability would be creating a “smoothing” mechanism that minimizes the impact of drug costs on seniors getting by on fixed incomes.

What won’t do these vulnerable patients any good — especially in the long run — are hyperpartisan attempts to allow the government to set the price of medicines under the guise of “negotiation.” The health policies included in the Build Back Better Act, which is now moving to the Senate for consideration, would do just that. While these programs’ objectives may be admirable, they would impose problematic government controls stifling innovation and potentially even reducing access to medications.

As medical science advances, patients should be able to enjoy more treatment options — but these types of policies would send Florida and the rest of the nation backward when it comes to making progress with pharmaceuticals so important to minority communities that struggle to obtain adequate health care. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office acknowledges that policies like these would conservatively lead to 60 fewer new treatments by the middle of the century.

According to health and technology consultancy Vital Transformation, these policies could mean a 90% reduction in new medicines developed by small and emerging biotech companies. Reducing drug prices shouldn’t also mean restrictive measures that keep scientists and physicians from creating lifesaving cures and medical advancements.

Lowering these prices also doesn’t have to come at the cost of hampering the pharmaceutical industry, one of the nation’s crown economic jewels. These kinds of policies could result in the loss of roughly 1 million American jobs that are supported by the biopharmaceutical industry, a Vital Transformation estimate found.

The bottom line is that there are responsible, bipartisan proposals aimed at lowering patients’ out-of-pocket costs that also protect access to today’s medicines and tomorrow’s cures. Having the government intervene to “negotiate” the price of medications puts this access at stake for millions, including seniors and people with disabilities.

For the sake of ensuring that Florida patients — especially our poorest and most vulnerable — can afford what they desperately need at the pharmacy counter, and that they will be able to benefit from future medicines that could save their lives, I hope only truly responsible proposals are prioritized.


Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Guest Author


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