By John Rother
The U.S. is alone among developed nations in failing to assure more affordable medications for its citizens. Medicare trustees have an obligation to act prudently to obtain fair prices for beneficiaries. Recent research has shown 80% of FDA-approved pharmaceutical patents go to small changes in medications already on the market, rather than to truly innovative new cures. Large pharma companies spend much more on stock buybacks and direct-to-consumer marketing than they do on R&D for truly innovative cures. For example, Pfizer spent $139 billion on buybacks and dividends compared with $82 billion on R&D over the past decade. We need to rebalance the pharmaceutical market to achieve fairer, more affordable prices along with continued incentives for research on the most important health-care needs.