Health and Human Services just issued a five-year plan to eliminate viral hepatitis, a chronic liver disease that afflicts 3.3 million Americans. The plan seeks to boost hepatitis vaccination rates, make it easier for patients to get tests and treatments, and spur more research and development of cures.

Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to undermine this initiative. House lawmakers just reintroduced a price control proposal known as H.R. 3, or the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The 2019 bill would gut patients' access to treatments for hepatitis -- and for other diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. And it would also deter companies from investing in future groundbreaking medicines.

H.R. 3 would cap the cost of 250 common drugs at 120% of the average price paid in Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Prescription drug prices are lower in these six developed countries because they have government-run healthcare systems, in which bureaucrats set drug prices. Such price controls come with severe consequences. These nations ration care and access to drugs.

As of 2020, German patients had access to only 63% of all new medicines introduced worldwide between 2011 and 2019. Meanwhile, patients in the United Kingdom, France, and Japan all had access to less than 60%. Canadian patients could access only 46%. Australia fared the worst -- less than 40% of new drugs were available to patients.

In striking contrast, American patients had access to almost 90% of new treatments.

H.R. 3 and proposals like it wouldn't merely limit access to drugs already on the market -- they would dismantle the innovation system that makes new treatments possible.

It costs $2.6 billion on average to develop, test, and bring a new treatment to market. Pharmaceutical companies take on huge risk by investing all that money into research and development, since only around 12% of experimental drugs that reach the clinical trial phase are granted FDA approval.

If artificial price controls are suddenly imposed, many companies will no longer be able to recoup their investments. Drug development will become too financially risky. So companies will scale back their R&D efforts.

That's particularly troubling for Americans living with viral hepatitis, who have seen innovators make life-changing advances in recent years. Treating hepatitis C, for instance, used to require painful injections -- with just a 50% efficacy rate -- that caused severe flulike symptoms. Now, there are pills with 90-100% efficacy that treat the disease faster and without disruption to a patient's life.

Proposals like H.R. 3 could block such treatments from reaching patients. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that H.R. 3 would result in 38 fewer drugs coming to market in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, other estimates place the losses as high as 61 over the next decade alone.

As a career-long advocate for hepatitis patients, I am deeply concerned that people like me -- who have waited 50 years for a cure -- may soon face new obstacles to get the care they so badly need. Just as we are tantalizingly close to winning the fight against the disease once and for all, government price setting would clutch defeat from the jaws of victory.

William Remak is Chairman of the International Association of Hepatitis Task Forces.