Regarding prescription drug costs, politicians have officially approached the “be careful what you wish for” territory. Knee-jerk proposals from Congress and the Biden administration are piling on top of recently enacted government-required drug pricing policies. According to a recent study, lawmakers’ current direction will have seismic ramifications on developing lifesaving medicines and cost Americans access to these medications and sought-after jobs.

Federal regulatory agencies are implementing government drug pricing provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed last year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced the list of 10 drugs up for initial negotiations that include treatments for people managing diabetes, heart or kidney disease, blood cancers, and arthritis. Now, the Medicare program can set prices for these medicines anywhere from nine to 13 years after their Food and Drug Administration approval.

Some pharmaceutical manufacturers have announced they are pulling drugs out of clinical trials because mandated prices make it more challenging to get a return on the massive research investments involved. That makes it even more incredible that efforts are already underway to accelerate these drug pricing policies before the dust settles on the many consequences of these policies.

Recent proposals from lawmakers would allow Medicare to start mandating prices five years after FDA approval, forcing an even smaller window of time for manufacturers to recoup research and development costs. Options will dry up for those seeking new treatments for cancers, neurological illnesses, rare and infectious diseases, and other serious conditions. And patients with unmet medical needs who ultimately rely on an already ailing healthcare system face an uncertain future.

Research has calculated an acceleration of the drug pricing policies will result in 237 fewer FDA approvals of new medicines or new uses of existing medicines over the next decade. Further, the study projected if the government had already been mandating prices just five years after FDA approval, more than 80 therapies identified as eligible for price setting would never have been developed in the first place. According to research, the greatest effect of this reduction in drug development would fall on areas like oncology, neurology, and infectious and rare diseases.

This scenario is disturbing, but it cannot be called surprising. The haste to claim little more than political victories comes with a cost. Billions of investment dollars are required to maintain the robust drug pipeline that pumps out new treatments to save, extend and improve lives.  Additionally, recognizing the benefit of new medications and testing them against multiple disease states takes time.

The Biden Cancer Moonshot initiative and its goal to cut cancer deaths in half over the next 25 years has a popularity that transcends political divisions. Still, politicians must realize you can’t reduce cancer deaths without incentivizing investment in the breakthrough medicines responsible for sustaining life. Expanded drug pricing policies will not only discourage investment but perhaps cause a re-direction of those dollars to China, India, or other countries eager to supplant the United States as the world’s premier biotech innovator.

Add to this the economic realities. If fewer drugs are being produced, an economic effect is inevitable. According to the Vital Transformation research, expanding drug pricing policies will result in a loss of as many as 233,000 direct biopharmaceutical industry jobs and a ripple effect costing up to 1.1 million jobs throughout the broader economy. It’s hard to imagine what that kind of deterioration to the infrastructure of the biopharmaceutical industry could mean if we face another global pandemic threat.

The bottom line is that politicians don’t have to go down this perilous road. There are effective mechanisms to make prescription drugs more affordable without damaging the economic incentives for current and future innovation. Several congressional committees, for example, have been advancing legislation to address the profiteering of pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen in the drug supply chain, who seize huge chunks of prescription drug dollars without creating or dispensing the products. Re-directing that money to patients to reduce their out-of-pocket costs would have a far more significant benefit for the typical American than government drug pricing policies.

There are grave concerns about the many effects of this legislation and expanded provisions. This week’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announcement of the initial list of drugs has shone a glaring light on how much misinformation and misunderstanding there is now that this is becoming a reality.

It would seem incredibly dangerous to double down on these pricing policies before they are implemented. Politicians are elected to see the forest through the trees; they must think twice before acting cavalierly with our lives and health.