Highlights of the New HHS Report, Securing the Benefits of Innovation for America's Seniors, Released Today by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson
The HHS report includes a detailed review of recent breakthroughs in drug treatments for the following diseases: cancer, osteoporosis and hip fractures, asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, enlarged prostate, depression, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and migraines.
For all of these diseases, the HHS report presents evidence on significant improvements in the health of older Americans that have occurred because of the drug breakthroughs - enabling millions of seniors to live longer and more enjoyable and productive lives.
For all of these diseases, the HHS report describes new drugs in the pipeline of research and development that can provide even greater improvements in health.
But the HHS report also shows that access to these new treatments is not guaranteed: for all of these diseases, countries with government-run prescription drug coverage programs have limited costs by restricting access to new drugs.
Coverage of new drugs is delayed while government-appointed committees make decisions about which patients, if any, should have access to the drugs.
Coverage of new drugs is restricted to selected patients that meet criteria imposed by the government drug plan.
Coverage of new drugs is denied if new drugs don't make the government formulary, or covered drug list.
And patients who could benefit from the new drugs cannot choose to get coverage from another plan that would better meet their needs.
In contrast, new breakthrough drugs are generally covered quickly by private insurance plans in the United States. As a result, Americans have far greater availability and use of life-saving and life-improving new drugs.
U.S.-produced drugs account for the largest share of drug innovation worldwide: In 1999, drugs developed and produced by American companies accounted for more than 80 percent of global sales of the world's top 15 drugs.
In the late 1990s, U.S. drugs accounted for almost 70 percent of the worldwide sales of new drugs.
A recent report for the European Commission noted that Europe is falling behind in drug research and development, and concluded that governments should "converge on a higher reliance on innovative management methods and on competitive mechanisms, moving away from schemes excessively based on administrative decisions and bureaucratic structures/rules in the regulation in the market."
With all of the new breakthrough drugs in the pipeline, now is not the time for Medicare to create a drug benefit that would limit the development and availability of new drugs in the United States.