President Joe Biden claimed victory Wednesday over America's pharmaceutical giants in forcing a modest retreat on exorbitant drug prices -- a theme likely to be a central plank in his expected reelection campaign.
"After decades of trying to take on Big Pharma, we finally, finally won," Biden told an audience in Las Vegas.
Prices for prescription medicines in the United States -- many of them developed by US companies -- are often several times higher than in other modern economies, including neighboring Canada.
Breaking that stranglehold on the market has long been an unrealized goal for politicians in Washington, not least for Biden's Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who repeatedly vowed to eradicate the price differential, but made little headway.
Biden said his signature Inflation Reduction Act law passed last year was now bringing change.
The law allows the state-run health insurance system for seniors, Medicare, to use its hefty negotiating power to set prices. It also caps the price of insulin, sometimes sold for hundreds of dollars, to just $35.
The law also requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay Medicare back if their prices increases exceed the rate of inflation.
"It's going to change the way drugs are priced and lower the costs for seniors longterm," Biden said.
Danish company Novo Nordisk said Tuesday it would cut US prices for insulin by up to 75 percent.
That followed comparable insulin price cuts by rival US drug company Eli Lilly, which said on March 1 that it would cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for people with insurance.
The incidence of diabetes in the United States in adults has doubled over the last 20 years, afflicting 37.3 million people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The unaffordability of insulin -- particularly for uninsured Americans -- has become a rallying cry for critics of Big Pharma.
In his remarks in Nevada, an election battleground, Biden called these developments "good news" and said Eli Lilly had agreed to "answer my call."
Adding to expectations that he will soon announce a bid for a second term in 2024, Biden said he wants to "finish the job."
“Let's expand health care for more people," Biden said. "Let's keep building the economy from the middle up, not from the top down."
More than 60 million people in the United States, mostly those over age 65, rely on Medicare for their health insurance. Another 85 million are eligible for some assistance through Medicaid, which targets lower income people.
Others are covered by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which provides subsidized health insurance.
Approximately nine percent of Americans -- some 26 million people -- are without any health insurance, leaving them at the mercy of often unaffordable private providers.