By Lauren Aronson
Congress was gaveled back into session this month with unprecedented momentum behind legislative efforts to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices.
First, even in a deeply divided political climate, there continues to be true bipartisan cooperation, commitment and a shared vision on market-based solutions to lower drug prices.
Second, there is overwhelming consensus among Americans, from all backgrounds and political ideologies, that Big Pharma needs to be held accountable and policymakers must act to tackle the crisis of rising drug prices.
Third, the crisis of affordability continues to get worse, while Big Pharma maintains a “business-as-usual” attitude. In June alone, drug companies jacked up prices on 106 drugs by an average of 27 percent. In the first six months of the year, prices increased on 3,443 drugs by an average of 10.5 percent – four times faster than the rate of inflation.
Fourth, lawmakers have made significant, positive progress on a number of bipartisan, market-based solutions that can realistically go the distance by passing both chambers in Congress and getting signed into law by the president.
Before Congress left for August recess, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance advanced a drug pricing package, with bipartisan support, that would represent a strong first step toward lowering drug prices. The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act
of 2019, introduced by Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), contains a number of bipartisan, market-based solutions that will hold Big Pharma accountable and deliver concrete relief for patients and consumers.
The Grassley-Wyden drug pricing package:
Provides Immediate Savings for Seniors: Caps out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.
Disincentivizes Price-Gouging: Reforms Part D to give Big Pharma significant liability in the catastrophic phase.
Protects Patients & Taxpayers: Keeps the growth of prescription drug prices in line with inflation.
Boosts Transparency: Shines a greater light on Big Pharma’s opaque pricing practices.
Supports Competition: Offers policies to increase the utilization of biosimilars.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates these solutions would save American taxpayers billions of dollars in federal spending, save Medicare Part D beneficiaries billions in out-of-pocket costs and premiums, and have a positive impact on the commercial market:
$100 Billion: The amount taxpayers would save in Medicare and Medicaid spending.
$27 Billion: The amount Medicare Part D beneficiaries would save in out-of-pocket costs.
$5 Billion: The amount Medicare Part D beneficiaries would save in premiums.
With only a finite number of legislating weeks left in the year, it is absolutely critical that lawmakers capitalize on the unprecedented momentum and act now to take up, advance and pass these market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices.