The House committees of jurisdiction continued their efforts to reduce the costs of prescription drug prices. The Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees Oct. 17 both advanced the Lower Prescription Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), while the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the topic.
The Energy and Commerce Committee advanced H.R. 3, 30-22, along party lines. The committee also approved four other bills on voice votes that would direct the savings from the government drug price negotiations to new dental, vision, and hearing benefits for seniors in Medicare, as well as new financial support for low-income Medicare beneficiaries.
During his opening statement, Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) outlined several changes the committee made to H.R. 3 since its initial hearing. Those include a phased-in increase of the minimum number of drugs the Health and Human Services Secretary must negotiate, a guarantee that a negotiated drug price will remain in place until there are two or more generic competitors, and a new provision to negotiate prices for newly launched drugs.
Pallone highlighted the Oct. 12 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) preliminary report that found that the cost-savings from drug negotiations will save $345 billion over six years. He also highlighted an Office of the Actuary report, noting, “the bill will save American households $158 billion while saving private businesses $46 billion. These tremendous savings confirm that this bill fulfills our commitment to lowering prescription drug costs for Americans.”
Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) emphasized his displeasure with H.R. 3 and the way it has been moved through the committee. He stated, “Unfortunately, the nasty politics of prescription drug pricing has overtaken the real reform we would have achieved, working together.” Walden also cited the Oct. 12 CBO report, highlighting that up to 15 new drugs may not come to the market over the next 10 years. Walden questioned, “What if one of those was the cure for ALS or Alzheimer’s? What if one brought relief to sufferers of arthritis and another the cure for childhood cancer? Truth is none of us knows which cure or which medicine will never get invented or approved.”
Similar themes prevailed during the House Education and Labor Committee markup, which also advanced H.R. 3 along party lines, 27-21. Chairman Bobby Scott (R-Va.) noted, “Nine out of ten of the largest pharmaceutical companies today spend more on marketing, sales, and overhead than they do on research. The majority of new, lifesaving drugs are actually discovered using taxpayer-funded medical research from the National Institutes of Health.”
Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) acknowledged that high drug prices are “a serious problem that requires a serious approach by Congress” but referred to H.R. 3 as “the latest in a string of extreme socialist policies championed by Congressional Democrats.”
Additionally, the House Ways and Means Committee Oct. 17 held a hearing to examine ways to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs. Specifically, the committee focused on H.R. 3, following similar hearings by both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 27]. The committee will markup H.R. 3 on Oct. 22.
House leadership has indicated that they hope to bring H.R. 3 to the House floor for a vote the week of Oct. 28.