Mississippi News

Unchecked FTC policy would hamper prescription drug competition, increase costs

Note: The following op-ed item is provided by Merle Flowers, a businessman and former Republican state Senator from Olive Branch. He is President of Flowers Properties, LLC. 

By Merle Flowers

There has been a lot of debate in recent weeks in both Jackson and Washington over the best course to address the high price of prescription drugs.

As policymakers weigh potential solutions, it is critical they avoid misguided government interventions that would threaten to further weaken innovation and competition in the marketplace and increase drug costs.

S. 127, the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act of 2023, recently reintroduced in the U.S. Senate, represents such a misguided approach. This legislation would hand President Biden’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is already acting with open disdain for free enterprise and the interests of employers who create opportunity in our communities, a massive expansion of authority to target the basic business operations of private companies.

Former state Sen. Merle Flowers

The bill encourages the FTC to operate outside the mission of the agency to target the business and proprietary data of pharmacy benefit companies to serve a predetermined and misplaced bias against this industry. In addition, by opening the door to this expansion of the Biden FTC’s authority, the legislation would set a precedent potentially jeopardizing any industry with which the federal agency determines it should use the heavy hand of government to harass and further regulate.

“No Washington bureaucracy better exemplifies the Biden administration’s fierce, far-left attacks on free markets than the Federal Trade Commission,” Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of the business publication bearing his name, recently wrote. “Calling the FTC’s recent actions regulatory overreach would be an understatement… Despite their protestations that they want more competition, [FTC Chairwoman Lina] Khan and her extremist colleagues are making markets less dynamic and more stultified by throwing sand into the gears of a critical and normal process of a free economy.”

S. 127 plays right into the current FTC’s government-knows-best approach that would hamstring the value of an industry whose primary purpose is to secure savings for job creators and consumers on the cost of prescription drugs — putting $148 billion in savings delivered by this industry each year at risk of unchecked government meddling.

The result of this anti-competitive approach would be higher drug costs and a lost opportunity to address the cause of the problem: patent abuse that prevents more competition and keeps market forces from working properly to lower prices.

As a small business owner, I oppose big government mandates that would take away the pharmacy benefits that my employees and I rely on to support access to quality, affordable health care coverage and prevent our prescription drug costs from soaring higher.

As a former State Senator, I understand the importance of focusing policy solutions on removing big government from the marketplace to support competition and innovation. Policies that empower the government to pick winners and losers and dictate the terms of business practices will have the opposite of their intended effect.

Competition is the best way to lower costs in any sector and health care is no different. I encourage our elected leaders in Washington to focus on legislation that aims to make the prescription drug marketplace more competitive — and to reject the misguided expansion of the Biden FTC’s authority that would increase prescription drug costs.

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