The issue of drug pricing has become a staple of the news cycle, with fresh headlines every few weeks spotlighting either the high cost of new breakthrough drugs, or jaw-dropping price hikes for established products. While these examples represent two very different sets of issues, in the minds of consumers, they boil down to the same thing: drugs cost too much, and drug companies are to blame. And the only framework for a rational discussion of the subject rests on a transparent, data-based value case for the product in question.

Much of the public sensitivity to drug pricing is a function of growing consumer exposure to healthcare costs. Payers and employers are shifting more of the financial burden onto patients in the form of higher deductibles, copays, and premiums. Consumers don’t need to be hospitalized to experience drug price increases; they feel it every time they fill a prescription.

The focus on drug pricing is not likely to go away on its own. Virtually every new administration offers a proposal for lowering drug prices. None of these have yet made it through the political gauntlet, but sooner or later one will, and no matter its details, it will be painful. Unless manufacturers take steps to address the root cause, pressure will continue to grow for an imposed solution.

What manufacturers can do to address pushback from payers, clinicians, patients and policymakers is to answer the one question that is foremost – why does the drug cost this much?

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