Curbing the growth of prescription drug prices will be a major focus this week when the American Medical Association's House of Delegates gathers in Chicago for its annual meeting.
There undoubtedly will be lots of discussion among the hundreds of delegates about congressional Republican ongoing efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The nation's largest physician's group blasted the House GOP repeal bill on the grounds that it would cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage and weaken insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Many physicians report increasingly hearing from their patients that they can't afford their medications, and say this is affecting medication adherence and outcomes of treatment.
Driven by that reality, the AMA delegates will consider half a dozen resolutions addressing drug prices. They include measures to negotiate prices with manufacturers, increase pricing transparency, strengthen enforcement against gouging, require drugmakers to disclose prices in direct-to-consumer advertising, set a $500 monthly out-of-pocket cap for drug costs in health plans, and incorporate estimated out-of-pocket drug costs in electronic health records.
The AMA, which claims about 230,000 members, has unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to ban direct-to-consumer drug ads entirely. Political observers say significant congressional action on drug prices is unlikely this year, given the GOP focus on Obamacare repeal and tax cuts plus the deep pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.
No major changes are proposed in the AMA's position on expanding health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which the association reaffirmed late last year. That stance remains controversial among conservative doctors, while the AMA's support for the confirmation of Dr. Tom Price as HHS secretary—a strong Obamacare foe—remains a sore point with liberal doctors.
"Our position is that people who don't have insurance should get it, and those who have it shouldn't lose it," AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman said in an interview. "Those without health insurance live sicker and die younger."
Dr. David Barbe, a family physician from Mountain Grove, Mo., will be inaugurated as the AMA's new president during the meeting.