More than 75% of Americans say the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable,” according to a health tracking poll out this month from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In May, Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., chair of the American Medical Association, testified to Congress “that costs are a major obstacle to our patients getting the right medication at the right time.”

Leaders from both parties, including President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and many Democratic presidential hopefuls, have discussed plans on how to address these costs. 

In the wake of all the conversation surrounding the issue, two Gabelli School of Business professors—Falguni Sen, Ph.D., who heads the Gabelli School’s Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center, and Navid Asgari, Ph.D.—decided to make drug pricing a focus for the center this year.

One of their first events will be a panel and conversation titled “Facts and Myths in Drug Pricing,” to be held at Fordham Law School on Monday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., with a reception to follow.

All those who need at least one prescription are affected by this issue, Sen said.

“The whole issue is one of affordability—access to medicine and affordability of medicine; they’re highly related,” he said. “Access is, is there enough quantity right now available for us to get to distribution centers that will allow us to have it and prescription systems that will allow people who need it to get it? Then comes the whole question of affordability. Unless pricing changes, affordability does not change.”

One of the goals of the forum, he said, is to highlight the complexities surrounding drug pricing. The cost of new, innovative drugs and their high rate of failure can cause a legitimate increase in drug prices, Sen said, but the lack of regulation in the current system can allow those prices to increase exponentially.   

“Is it just our market system, where we do not do what the rest of the world does, where there is some kind of a reference pricing that is done?” he said. “Is that the reason for what is happening with pricing, or is it fear that some new kind of ‘local therapies’ are going to come into play so pharma better make all its money very quickly, before all those alternatives come in … We need to put all these things out on the table and have a proper discussion about it.”

The event will feature keynote speaker John LaMattina, Ph.D., of PureTech Health, who spent 30 years working at Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies. 

“I’m quite sure for him the facts and myths are going to be different than the facts and myths of other people, so we wanted a panel that would present the different points of view,” Sen said.

The panel will include Sen, Asgari, and Will Mitchell, Ph.D., of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, all of whom come at the issue from a different perspective. 

Based on Mitchell’s previous work, Sen said he expects him to provide a “down-the-middle” approach, highlighting the importance of maintaining innovation but also keeping costs down when appropriate.

“I personally come a lot more from the public health and the public good space, which is that drugs, especially life-saving drugs, should be easily available,” Sen said. “I feel that our prices in the U.S. are very, very high, mainly because of the fact that they are free-market pricing and whatever the market can bear, as opposed to really related to cost.”

The event is free and open to the public. Register here.