As the Democratic Party in the House and Senate negotiated last week within its own ranks over the Build Back Better bill, the party leadership and the White House seemed last week to have agreed with centrist hold-out Senators, Manchin and Sinema, that a provision that would have authorized Medicare to bargain down the prices of prescription drugs would be cut. But that agreement came under great political pressure last week, and this week the trend is the other way, toward the inclusion of prescription-drug price limits in the still evolving bill.
The reform in question is a popular one with the Democratic base. Many Democratic legislators campaigned on it in 2018, 2020, or both. Advocates say that the pharmaceutical industry is ripping off Americans, and that the buying power of the Medicare system should be employed to force them to stop.
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The industry replies that forcing price cuts this way, or any other, would limit its ability to research and develop new cures and vaccines. The industry, and its friends in Congress, are especially unhappy about the prospect of Medicare forcing down the prices of new drugs, those that still have what is called “exclusivity.”