The American Medical Association (AMA) held an Interim Meeting this week, in part to discuss the increase in drug prices. Growing drug costs have negatively impacted the ability for the average patient to access medications. In response to this concerning issue, physicians across the United States have launched a campaign to advocate for affordable prescription drug costs.
The AMA released a report after their meeting, which estimated that prescription drug spending "increased by 12.6 percent in 2014" which is "the highest rate of growth...since 2002". The increase in cost affects everybody, including "state Medicaid budgets, Medicare spending, insurance premiums and prescription drug tiers" but highlights that the most important area this increase impacted was "patient access to these medications".
AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, highlighted the increase in drug prices as one reason why physicians can no longer provide "the best possible care to their patients". Quite often, the right medical regime is simply unaffordable to the patients who need it most. He spoke some cases where patients are completely unable to afford their medications, so they "entirely forego necessary treatments involving drugs".
One way in which the AMA hopes to encourage reduced drug prices is to discourage pharmaceutical companies from trying to prevent generic alternatives to their medications from being produced, to encourage greater transparency within the system with respect to how drug prices are set, and to encourage regulators to limit the exclusivity periods for certain types of medications.
The AMA also spoke of the concerns they have regarding the volume of advertisements driving consumer demand to expensive, yet often less effective, treatments. They have called for a complete ban on advertising drugs directly to patients. Kantar Media, a market research firm, confirmed that only the United States and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription medication and that advertising dollars spent to market those types of medications has reached $4.5 billion. This reflects an increase of 30 percent in less than two years. AMA Board Chair-Elect, Patrice A. Harris MD, said that:
Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fuelling escalating drug prices. Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.
The AMA believes that by advocating for new policies to monitor and respond to drug costs within the marketplace, it will help more patients access the medications they need, when they need them.