WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced several bills supported by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to improve access to affordable prescription medications through transparency and competition. The package of bills represent a portion of Grassley’s broader effort to reduce the cost of prescription drugs through market-based solutions.
“The Judiciary Committee took important steps today to promote competition and prevent abuses in the prescription drug industry. These bills are part of a multi-faceted effort I’m pursuing to address the skyrocketing price of prescription medications. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m also working on legislation to reform portions of Medicare Parts B and D as well as Medicaid to ensure prescription drugs are more affordable and accessible for all Americans,” Grassley said.
The Judiciary Committee advanced four bills, two of which were co-authored by Grassley:
This bill, authored by Grassley, shines a light on mergers and other activity by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the middlemen in the prescription drug supply chain, by directing the Federal Trade Commission to examine the effects of consolidation on pricing and other potentially-abusive behavior. It also requires the FTC to provide policy recommendations to Congress to improve competition, promote transparency and protect consumers.
“Competition and transparency are key ingredients to improving affordability of prescription medications. While PBMs play a significant role in determining how much patients and the government pay for drugs, much of their business model is cloaked in secrecy, and the industry has experienced significant consolidation in recent years. The Prescription Pricing for the People Act helps provide a better understanding of PBMs and other intermediaries through a comprehensive FTC review designed to inform policymakers, protect patients and safeguard competition,” Grassley said.
This bill, cosponsored by Grassley, would give the FTC enhanced authority to take action against drug companies that file sham citizens petitions to delay the regulatory approval process of lower-cost generics and biosimilars, a dilatory tactic employed to retain their monopoly over the medications.
“Citizen petitions exist to promote safety and efficacy of prescription drugs, not to be a tool for drug companies looking to prolong their monopolies over medication and keep lower-cost alternatives off the market. Sham petitions by drugmakers and their shadow actors to delay approval of more affordable competitors only serve to pad their pockets at the expense of patients. This bill takes important steps to preserve citizen petitions and prevent abuse,” Grassley said.
With Grassley’s support, the committee also advanced the PACED Act of 2019 (S. 440) and the Affordable Prescriptions for the Patients Act of 2019 (S. 1416), which respectively address anti-competitive practices by drugmakers to use tribal sovereign immunity to evade patent review and to extend monopolies of high-cost drugs by engaging in patent thicket and product hopping schemes.
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced separate legislation, which included the CREATES Act, a bill co-authored by Grassley to address abuses by brand-name drug companies to withhold samples from generic manufacturers so they cannot develop lower-priced alternatives. That bill was advanced by the Judiciary Committee under Grassley’s chairmanship in the last Congress.