Exclusive: U.S. health regulator Verma eyes new methods for drug pricing

Published 01/12/2017 in Medicine

Exclusive: U.S. health regulator Verma eyes new methods for drug pricing
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Seema Verma (C) is joined by Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance (L) as she talks to reporters about President Trump’s signing of House Resolution 43, which allows states to withhold federal funds from facilities that provide abortion services, at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government is considering setting new payment methods aimed at curbing costs for Medicare and Medicaid coverage of breakthrough medical treatments with very high prices, particularly novel gene-based therapies for cancer and other diseases, a top health official said on Thursday.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), made the comments in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York.

CMS, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually on medicines for seniors, disabled people and low-income households through the huge Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS does not negotiate prices or purchase drugs, but sets ground rules for the managed care companies and state Medicaid agencies that do.

“We are trying to do whatever we can to increase competition and give the (health insurance) plans more tools so that they can be better negotiators on our behalf,” Verma said.

Roughly 125 million Americans are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

Alex Azar, Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary, on Wednesday promised to address drug prices if confirmed to the job, where he would be Verma’s boss.

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as healthcare experts, have urged Congress to enact new laws allowing the government to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers. In the meantime, Verma is focusing on what she is already authorized to do.

“We are trying to do whatever we can within the regulatory structure,” she said.

Print article

Leave a Reply

Please complete required fields