Medicare Announces 10 Drugs Targeted for Price Cuts in 2026

Kerry Dooley Young

August 29, 2023

People on Medicare may in 2026 see prices drop for 10 medicines, including pricey diabetes, cancer, blood clot, and arthritis treatments, if advocates for federal drug-price negotiations can implement their plans amid tough opposition.

The Biden administration on Tuesday revealed the first 10 drugs selected for direct Medicare price negotiations in accordance with a process mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

It's unclear at this time, though, how these negotiations will play out. The US Chamber of Commerce has sided with pharmaceutical companies in bids to block direct Medicare negotiation of drug prices. Many influential Republicans in Congress oppose this plan, which has deep support from both Democrats and AARP.

While facing strong opposition to negotiations, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sought in its Tuesday announcement to illustrate the high costs of the selected medicines.

CMS provided data on total Part D costs for selected medicines for the period from June 2022 to May 2023, along with tallies of the number of people taking these drugs. The 10 selected medicines are as follows:

  • Eliquis (generic name: apixaban), used to prevent and treat serious blood clots. It is taken by about 3.7 million people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $16.4 billion.

  • Jardiance (generic name: empagliflozin), used for diabetes and heart failure. It is taken by almost 1.6 million people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $7.06 billion.

  • Xarelto (generic name: rivaroxaban), used for blood clots. It is taken by about 1.3 million people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $6 billion.

  • Januvia (generic name: sitagliptin), used for diabetes. It is taken by about 869,00 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $4.1 billion.

  • Farxiga (generic name: dapagliflozin), used for diabetes, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease. It is taken by about 799,000 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is almost $3.3 billion.

  • Entresto (generic name: sacubitril/valsartan), used to treat heart failure. It is taken by 587,000 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $2.9 billion.

  • Enbrel( generic name: etanercept), used for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis. It is taken by 48,000 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $2.8 billion.

  • Imbruvica (generic name: ibrutinib), used to treat some blood cancers. It is taken by about 20,000 people in Part D plans. The estimated cost is $2.7 billion.

  • Stelara (generic name: ustekinumab), used to treat plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or certain bowel conditions (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis). It is used by about 22,000 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $2.6 billion.

  • Fiasp; Fiasp FlexTouch; Fiasp PenFill; NovoLog; NovoLog FlexPen; NovoLog PenFill. These are forms of insulin used to treat diabetes. They are used by about 777,000 people through Part D plans. The estimated cost is $2.6 billion.

A vocal critic of Medicare drug negotiations, Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), called the announcement of the 10 drugs selected for negotiation "a hollow victory lap." A former Republican staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, White aided with the development of the Medicare Part D plans and has kept tabs on the pharmacy programs since its launch in 2006.

"[N]o one's costs will go down now or for years because of this announcement" about Part D negotiations, White said in a statement.

According to its website, CAHC includes among its members the American Academy of Ophthalmology as well as some patient groups, drugmakers, such as Johnson & Johnson, and insurers and industry groups, such as the National Association of Manufacturers.

Separately, the influential Chamber of Commerce is making a strong push to at least delay the implementation of the Medicare Part D drug negotiations. On Monday, the chamber released a letter sent to the Biden administration, raising concerns about a "rush" to implement the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The chamber also has filed suit to challenge the drug negotiation provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, requesting that the court issue a preliminary injunction by October 1, 2023.

Other pending legal challenges to direct Medicare drug negotiations include suits filed by Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, according to an email from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to Medscape. PhRMA also said it is a party to a case.

In addition, the three congressional Republicans with most direct influence over Medicare policy issued on Tuesday a joint statement outlining their objections to the planned negotiations on drug prices.

This drug-negotiation proposal is "an unworkable, legally dubious scheme that will lead to higher prices for new drugs coming to market, stifle the development of new cures, and destroy jobs," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID).

Democrats were equally firm and vocal in their support of the negotiations. Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a statement on Tuesday that said the release of the list of the 10 drugs selected for Medicare drug negotiations is part of a "seismic shift in the relationship between Big Pharma, the federal government, and seniors who are counting on lower prices.

"I will be following the negotiation process closely and will fight any attempt by Big Pharma to undo or undermine the progress that's been made," Wyden said.

In addition, AARP issued a statement of its continued support for Medicare drug negotiations.

"The number one reason seniors skip or ration their prescriptions is because they can't afford them. This must stop," said AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond in the statement. "The big drug companies and their allies continue suing to overturn the Medicare drug price negotiation program to keep up their price gouging. We can't allow seniors to be Big Pharma's cash machine anymore."

Kerry Dooley Young is a freelance journalist based in Washington, DC. Follow her on Mastodon and Threads as @kerrydooleyyoung and at BlueSky

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