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  • Washington Highlights

    House Committees Hold Hearings on Lowering Prescription Drug Prices

    Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations

    The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions both held hearings on lowering prescription drug prices.

    The Sept. 25 Energy and Commerce Subcommittee’s legislative hearing focused on four bills that would grant the Health and Human Services Secretary the authority to negotiate with drug manufacturers for the price of prescription drugs. The bills include the Lower Prescription Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), introduced last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 20], as well as the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2019 (H.R. 275), the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 448), and the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act of 2019 (H.R. 1046).

    During his opening remarks, Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) noted, “For years, Americans have been subsidizing prescription drugs for the rest of the world. Americans pay three, four, or ten times the amount what people in other countries pay for the exact same drug. That’s not fair, and today we are beginning the process of leveling the playing field …”.

    Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) stated that both Republicans and Democrats “want to work together to lower drug costs for consumers” but expressed his frustration with the current process. He highlighted the bipartisan bills the committee has previously advanced [see Washington Highlights, April 5] but called this hearing and the Lower Prescription Drug Costs Now Act “partisan politics at its worst and an avoidable failure. A failure to build on our bipartisan progress to lower prescription drug prices for consumers.”

    Toward the end of the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) committed to moving forward in regular order by holding a subcommittee markup on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

    Similar themes emerged during the Sept. 26 House Education and Labor Subcommittee hearing. Subcommittee Chair Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) highlighted the need to address high drug costs. In her opening statement, she stated, “Prescription drug prices are out of control … As drug companies continue to raise prices with no end in sight, seniors, taxpayers, workers, and our economy are all footing the bill.” She then called on Congress to “take bold action by passing the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.”

    Ranking Member Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) added, “There is no question that health care costs are at the top of the minds for most Americans. The cost of prescription drugs are a concern for workers and families.” He continued to note his opposition to the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, referring to it as a “radical, partisan bill” and a “political ploy that will not be considered in the Senate or become law.”

    Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Sept. 25 released the text of their bipartisan proposal to lower the price of prescription drugs, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA, S. 2543). The bill was advanced by the committee on July 25 [see Washington Highlights, July 26], but Chairman Grassley stated the bill may not move through the Senate until the new year.