PAKISTAN AND INDIA TAKE FIRST MAJOR STEP TOWARDS AGENDA OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY

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Imran Khan has not even officially been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan yet but he is already making a major impact.

There have been longstanding tensions between Pakistan and India, which was one of the biggest issues the incoming Prime Minister would be tasked with handling.

And he took a major step in doing so a few days ago.

Khan reached out to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday after Modi congratulated Khan on his victory.

India Express had all the details of the conversation and they seemed to be of a very positive nature:

Sources said that the phone conversation between Modi and Khan took place at 9 pm, though the duration of the call was not revealed. “They recalled their meeting in December 2015 and conversation from that time…and hoped to pick up the thread from there,” a top source told The Indian Express.

“Prime Minister expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan,” said an official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, indicating India’s support to the democratic process in Pakistan, where political parties have expressed concerns over its fairness.

Modi, according to the MEA statement, also “reiterated his vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood” — which is in line with his government’s stated objective of “neighbourhood first policy” and “sabka saath sabka vikas” in the South Asian context

Make no mistake, this is a terrific development for both nations.

And thankfully for Khan, as he continues to navigate his way through the process of trying to improve relations with India, he has Pervaiz Elahi on his side.

Elahi has the experience necessary to be a major asset to the Khan government.

Elahi is a former Chief Minister of Punjab and deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan whose party just re-elected to the National Assembly.

Not only does he have great relationships with other assembly members, he has longstanding relations with diplomats from other countries as well.

I have personally spoken to diplomats in the U.S., EU, and Islamabad, and have been assured by those of all different political agendas that they welcome the chance to work with Elahi.

This will be an enormous asset to the Khan government and will offer the opportunity for both countries to ease tensions and expand economic possibilities for both countries in the form of increased mutual investment, trade, and new jobs.

Khan already took his first step in this direction by having a positive conversation with PM Modi, and with both Elahi abd General Bajwa at his side, there is no doubt the possibilities for great results are endless.

It has never been more obvious to me that the Pakistani people made the right choice with Khan. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many years of peace and prosperity to come for both Pakistan AND India.

 

HHS IS IN GOOD HANDS

There has been a lot of talk about prescription drug prices and soaring insurance costs due to Obamacare. These are problem in dire need of being fixed. However, in order for them to be fixed properly, there must be somebody in charge of Health and Human Services who has quality solutions and the impeccable knowledge of healthcare it will take to muster a great plan.

Thankfully, Alex Azar fits both of those categories.

The Obamacare bill is nearly 2,000 pages and has far too many landmines within it. I understand that the mission of Obamacare was to deliver affordable health insurance, but with the constant announcements that premiums will be rising higher and higher, it is clear that despite the best of intentions, the law may have helped some people, but it has driven up costs for many others.

As a doctor myself, I very much value both quality of care and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. I believe that the government should interfere minimally and market-driven ideas must be at the forefront.

Secretary Azar understands all aspects of the healthcare industry and is perfect to help lead on finding the right solutions.

As a former law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia and accomplished attorney at Wiley Rein, a prominent DC law firm, he understands how to navigate the law and the proper way to handle negotiations.

He was then twice confirmed by a bipartisan DC government to be Deputy HHS Secretary and did an outstanding job.

Following that, he joined the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and company and did so well there that he rose all the way up to president of the company’s largest division, Lilly, USA Inc.

He could have stayed in that position and made millions of dollars per year, but instead, Azar decided it was more important to be of service to his fellow man and so he left that lucrative job to become HHS Secretary in November, 2017.

There are a lot of great ideas on the table to lower costs, and I am confident Secretary Azar will investigate the possibility of implementing them.

Yesterday, I wrote about the re-importation of drugs from Canada as a way to lower drug costs.

Another great idea would be to boost the prominence of health savings accounts, a fantastic concept going all the way back to the Gingrich-led congress of 1994. They are a great way for people to save medical money over the long term so that they can build a substantial sum in their accounts for when they are older and have a greater need for the money to pay for increased medical bills that typically accompany old age.

But we also need safeguards for our most vulnerable, so we must have funding mechanisms to help pay for high-risk state pools that can assist the truly poor and sick from being unable to get the care they need.

I am sure Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and others — including Democrats — have thoughts about what else could be added to drive down costs, and like any intelligent person, I am sure Secretary Azar is willing to listen to ANYTHING that could potentially add value for the American people.

Costs need to come down without the high quality of doctors and hospitals we have become so accustomed to in this country being adversely affected.

Secretary Azar knows this and he is on the case. As a doctor and a man who knows a strong leader when I see one, the Secretary has my complete faith, and I have the utmost confidence that he will succeed.

AZAR IS THE RIGHT MAN TO LEAD EFFORTS TO BRING DOWN DRUG PRICES

Obamacare may be a dead issue for now, but that doesn’t mean the debate about health insurance costs in the United States won’t continue. However, up until recently, there seemed to have been very little discussion of actual healthcare costs.

Health insurance is very expensive, but a big part of the reason for that is how costly drugs and procedures are that the insurance covers.

Thankfully, HHS Secretary Alex Azar understands this and is on the case.

The son of a doctor who went on to become a brilliant lawyer and pharmaceutical executive himself, Azar’s background gives him a unique perspective from which to work when coming up with policy solutions for bringing down the cost of prescription drugs.

So what can we do to lower drug prices and make medicine more affordable?

For starters, the administration’s Competitive Acquisition Program for tougher negotiation as it pertains to Medicare Part B should help greatly. Medicare is a huge part of the market as far as buying prescription drugs is concerned, so anything that can be done to drive those prices down would be a welcome change.

Beyond that, though, the entire patent system needs to be re-worked.

The average drug in this country costs anywhere from a several hundred million to a few billion dollars to develop. Obviously, it is important that drug companies be allowed to patent the drugs they cultivate, because otherwise, there would be minimal financial incentive to spend all of the money it takes to bring those drugs to market.

The patent period lasts for 20 years, but that starts from the time the drug is invented, not the time it being sold. The average drug takes 8 years to come to market, meaning that in most cases, the developer of the drug has 12 years before they can face any competition.

While I understand that a significant period of time should be afforded to these companies so they can recoup their research and development costs, shaving a few years off of that could be very beneficial to consumers. The earlier availability of generic drugs would lower overall drug costs, especially for those who pay for their medicine out of pocket.

Another issue we must confront is the fact that we are subsidizing drug costs for much of the rest of the developed world.

The United States accounts for nearly 50% of R/D funding, yet the same drugs that cost so much in the United States are often close to 50% cheaper in other countries.

How can this be?

Basically, our country does not have tight price controls on these drugs, while others do. The result is that whatever costs drug companies cannot recoup from the countries with strict price controls gets dumped onto us, making our drugs much more expensive.

Many have suggested that a solution to this would be to adopt the same price control measures here, but that would mean the drug companies would have nowhere to recover their costs and it would lead to less innovation and fewer new drugs in the market since opportunities to make money would be far more scarce.

One interesting idea to combat this is to allow for the re-importation of drugs from Canada, where they are generally far cheaper than in the United States.

While this idea failed to pass in the Senate recently, it has created a very interesting alliance between progressive Senators like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and libertarian-leaning Republicans like Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Arizona’s Jeff Flake.

Some have said this practice should not be allowed because there is potential for fraud and it would mean bypassing the FDA. Those are reasonable arguments and should not be dismissed out of hand.

However, it is worth considering the potential ramifications for Canada.

This practice would likely result in a Canadian drug shortage, which would mean they would be forced to raise prices somewhat and pay something closer to the true market share that they should have been paying for drugs all along.

And whether or not that re-importation bill is how we do it, getting other countries to pay their true market share for drugs so that drug companies don’t lean so heavily on us is a must if we are ever going to get fair pricing in the United States.