Drugs prices could be lower

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is among the lowest cost drug buyers in our government because they use their huge buying power to directly negotiate lower prices with the nation’s pharmaceutical companies. When the law that implemented Medicare Part D was written, it prohibited the government from using its huge patient base to negotiate lower prices. The “noninterference” clause expressly forbids the Secretary of Health and Human Services from interfering with drug price negotiations between manufacturers and Medicare drug plan sponsors, and from instituting a formulary or price structure for prescription drugs. Genentech produces two drugs which have almost identical effects for treatment of macular degeneration: Lucentis and Avastin. The cost for Lucentis is $2,000. The cost for Avastin, which has the same curative effect as Lucentis, is $50. They’re both FDA-approved, but only Lucentis has had its usage to treat macular degeneration formally applied for by Genentech. Avastin, (which has been previously approved for treatment of colon cancer and now has been proven in treatments of macular degeneration) hasn’t had its application submitted by Genentech. The $2,000 drug got the approval, and since there is no formulary managed by Medicare, it is the one that will generally be used in cases of macular degeneration. For five years, the big pharmaceutical companies have been able to reach into our treasury and pluck as much money as they wish for drugs that could be had for almost nothing. No wonder Medicare costs so much. DENIS GOLEMIS, Rocklin