Frequent, unexplained and unpredictable drug price increases are plaguing the U.S. healthcare system, Lynn Eschenbacher, PharmD, MBA, FASHP, Chief Pharmacy Officer, Ascension, says in a new column for Real Clear Health.

Dr. Eschenbacher recently testified before the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee to talk about Ascension’s experience with rising drug prices and their impact on both the System and the patients it serves.

“As I told the subcommittee, Ascension has had to mitigate against a 34 percent increase in drug costs over four years. This equates to $564 million in added costs to provide life-sustaining therapies to our patients,” she says. “Managing our expenditures is extremely important. We cannot carry out our Mission to its fullest potential without being good stewards of our finite resources. At Ascension, that Mission is to provide the highest quality care for the patients we are privileged to serve, with special attention to those most vulnerable.”

Dr. Eschenbacher says people often mistakenly think health systems like Ascension can leverage their size to get significant cost savings on drugs. “But the fact is, manufacturers are only willing to negotiate for about half of the drugs we buy,” she says. “We have no leverage when it comes to drugs that face no competition.”

She says the best way to keep costs down is to keep prices down via more competition. “We urge Congress to build on the momentum already achieved and pass legislation to spur competition and bring lower drug costs to the market,” she says. “Lawmakers can help facilitate lower prices by supporting faster FDA approval and market entry of generics and biosimilars, increasing funding for public and private research on drug pricing and value, and ending patent and data exclusivity abuses. We owe it to patients across our country to move forward with solutions that increase access to affordable prescription drugs.”

Click here for Dr. Eschenbacher’s column at Real Clear Health.