Senators Push for Prescription Drug Reform, Highlight Acute Benefits during Epidemics
Mar 12, 2020
Washington – Four U.S. senators yesterday spoke about the continuing need to address rising prescription drug prices, advocating for the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, especially in light of what pharmaceutical therapies may be produced to treat and address ongoing and future epidemics. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), each leading supporters of the PDPRA, gave remarks.
“Today, many Americans are reading about the coronavirus. We don’t know what kind of drugs may come onto the market to help treat the disease. Senator Cassidy is the expert there. But if our bill becomes law, we know that folks on Medicare won’t face sticker shock at the drugstore counter,” Grassley said.
“Congress has a tremendous opportunity to deliver a decisive victory in both lowering health care costs and improving health care for the people in my State of Maine and throughout our country. Let’s not delay any longer,” Collins said.
“So I will point out that we are going to have a cure for coronavirus sooner or later, but if a senior citizen or anyone cannot afford that cure, it is as if the cure had never been invented. We need both for the cure to be invented and we also need for it to be affordable. Otherwise, it would not be available. By the way, somebody may tell you they are supporting another bill either in the House of Representatives or here in the Senate. This is the only bill out there which is bipartisan. This is the only bill out there which has a chance to pass. This is the only bill that can protect senior citizens, not only by being good policy but by being signed into law by the President of the United States,” Cassidy said.
“This is about keeping our families healthy without having to worry about how much it’s going to cost or if they can afford it. This is about getting relief for the retiree whose worked and saved their entire life only to see the dollars they earned go down the drain because of high costs of prescription drugs. The President is ready to sign prescription drug reform legislation and he’s committed to getting this done on behalf of the American people. With strong support from this administration, I am confident we can achieve major reforms for the American people,” Daines said.
Each senator’s remarks can be watched here:
Prepared remarks from Sens. Grassley, Collins and Daines follow. Sen. Cassidy’s remarks can be found in the Congressional Record.
Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
On the Need for Prescription Drug Pricing Reform
In colloquy with Senators Cassidy, Collins & Daines
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
As most of my colleagues know, I hold a meeting in each one of Iowa’s 99 counties every year for a Q&A. And over the last couple years, without fail, Iowans bring up the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs.
It’s people all over my state, from farmers to factory workers—and especially seniors—who raise the concern that pharmacy bills are ballooning. And I’ll say, Iowans are always interested in hearing about solutions. But not a single one cares about the partisan politics of the issue. They just want Congress to act.
This is my 40th year taking questions in our 99 counties. Rarely have I heard so much unanimity when it comes to an issue, but on prescription drug prices it is unanimous. Republicans, Democrats and independents alike all want us to take action.
The data bears out their concerns. As I highlighted last week, a new study shows that pharmaceutical prices have increased three and a half times the rate of inflation in recent years. People are paying more than double what they paid in 2007 for drugs treating conditions from MS to diabetes.
The lack of transparency and the enormous subsidy incentives is driving these price hikes. The government spigot is all the way open for Big Pharma, and taxpayers are getting ripped off.
I know all my colleagues want to do something about this. And I know the administration wants to do something about this. Just yesterday, the White House published five principles for reducing prescription drug costs that the administration can get behind.
Our legislation in the Senate fits the bill. The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act addresses those principles, but more importantly it’s the only option that can get 60 votes.
Today, many Americans are reading about the coronavirus. We don’t know what kind of drugs may come onto the market to help treat the disease. Senator Cassidy is the expert there. But if our bill becomes law, we know that folks on Medicare won’t face sticker shock at the drugstore counter. Not only is that important as a comforting thought in the short term as we face the coronavirus, but it is important in the long term when we inevitably encounter another novel outbreak.
It took a long time to hammer out our bill. But I want to thank Senator Wyden for sticking it out with me and working in good faith for the benefit of all our constituents. His determination as well as the leadership of many other colleagues, like Senator Cassidy, Senator Collins and Senator Daines, have further improved the legislation.
We have a bill. We have bipartisan support. We have White House support. And, we have an opportunity. So let’s act.
Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Susan Collins of Maine
On the Need for Prescription Drug Pricing Reform
In colloquy with Senators Grassley, Cassidy & Daines
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
First, I want to express my appreciation to the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Grassley, not only for his leadership, but also for his persistence on an issue that affects so many Americans, and that is the soaring price of prescription drugs. Mr. President, three committees—the Finance Committee, the HELP Committee, and the Judiciary Committee—have all advanced bipartisan legislation to reform our broken drug pricing system. The Aging Committee, which I chair, has held eight drug pricing hearings, highlighting the burden of soaring prices and the manipulation of the market by individuals like the infamous Martin Shkreli. It is now past time for us to move forward to the Senate floor to debate these bills that have bipartisan support and that have garnered the approval of three major committees.
The Finance bill, which Senator Grassley has crafted with Senator Wyden and others—which I am proud to be a co-sponsor of—makes crucial improvements to Medicare Part D, such as protecting seniors with an out-of-pocket spending cap as well as including cost control measures such as an inflationary cap to limit pharmaceutical price hikes. Mr. President, at one of the hearings that the Aging Committee held, we heard testimony that was heartbreaking from a former teacher with multiple myeloma who had to refinance her home in order to cover the cost of her $250,000 cancer medication. We heard example after example. I will never forget standing in the pharmacy line in Bangor, Maine, where I live, and ahead of me was a couple who had just been told that their co-pay was $111, and the husband turned to his wife and said, ‘honey, we just can’t afford that.’ And they walked away—away from the medication that one of them needed. I asked the pharmacist how often does this happen. And he told me that it happens every day. We have to take action. That experience led me to author legislation that became law that prohibited gag clauses that were preventing pharmacies from advising their patients, their customers, on whether or not there was a less expensive way to purchase their prescription drug.
And I'm proud to say that that legislation is now law, but there is much more that we need to do. The HELP Committee, on which I serve, has incorporated more than 14 measures to increase price competition in its legislation on lowering health care costs. And I know the presiding officer is a member of that committee as well.
I'm pleased to say that the bill includes major portions of the Biologic Patent Transparency Act, which is the bill that I authored with Senator Tim Kaine. It is intended to prevent drug manufacturers from gaming the patent system. Now patents are very important and they help to spur innovation, and that period of exclusivity encourages drug manufacturers to invest more into lifesaving drugs. But the fact is, when the patent has expired, generics should be allowed to come to the market and drive down the cost. But, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, if all of the biosimilars—those are generics for biologic drugs—that had been approved by the FDA were successfully marketed in our country in a timely fashion, Americans would have saved more than $4.5 billion in 2017. A biosimilar version of Humira, the world’s bestselling drug, has been on the market in Europe for over a year while American patients must wait until 2023. We simply cannot allow this kind of abuse of the patent system to continue.
The Judiciary Committee has also advanced proposals that empower the Federal Trade Commission to take more aggressive action against anti-competitive behaviors. Last month, FTC charged the infamous Martin Shkreli with an anticompetitive scheme to setting an increase of more than 4,000 percent—overnight!—for the life-saving drug Daraprim. That was the focus of an investigation on the Aging Committee that I led with former Senator Claire McCaskill. I applaud the FTC for taking action, and we simply must give them more authority and the resources to pursue these kinds of anticompetitive cases that drive up the costs of prescription drugs.
Finally, I hope we have an opportunity to debate other worthy proposals, including one Senator Shaheen and I introduced to lower the skyrocketing price of insulin. And I want to commend the administration for, today, releasing a new plan to drive down the costs of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries.
The fact is, between 2012 and 2016, the average price of insulin nearly doubled. According to the Health Care Cost Institute, the price of an average 40-day supply of insulin rose from $344 in 2012 to $666 in 2016. There is no justification for that. Insulin was isolated nearly 100 years ago, and while there are different varieties of insulin, it’s still insulin.
As co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, Senator Shaheen and I have introduced legislation which creates a new pricing model for insulin, and our bill would hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmaceutical companies, and insurers accountable for surging insulin prices by incentivizing reductions in list prices. For the most popular insulins, this would result in as much as a 75 percent decrease in prices on average. Whether you are insured or you are paying out of pocket, you would benefit from that significant decline in the price if you need insulin to control your diabetes.
Congress has a tremendous opportunity to deliver a decisive victory in both lowering health care costs and improving health care for the people in my State of Maine and throughout our country. Let’s not delay any longer. We must act on prescription drug legislation without further delay. We have three committees that produced bills, and I believe that this should be a priority for this chamber.
Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Steve Daines of Montana
On the Need for Prescription Drug Pricing Reform
In colloquy with Senators Grassley, Collins & Cassidy
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
When I'm back home in Montana, I hear the same concerns.
From every corner of our state. Whether they’re from southeast Montana places like Ekalaka or Baker. Or up in northeast Montana places like Westby, places like Sydney, Plentywood. Or if you go out to the northwest part of our state places like Eureka, Libby, and in southwest Montana where I'm from places like Bozeman, Belgrade.
Anywhere you go, I'm hearing that Montanans are concerned with the high costs of prescription drugs.
That's why it made it one of my top priorities in Congress and on the Senate Finance Committee to lower prescription drug costs for Montanans and for folks across the country.
Year after year, prescription drug costs are reaching sky-high levels and are impacting our seniors, our veterans, our families, our working men and women.
It’s truly heart wrenching to hear the stories of folks rationing or skipping doses of daily medication because they can't afford the out-of-pocket costs.
Americans are struggling under the burden of out-of-control and high costs for prescription drugs and need relief.
That’s why I am grateful to be working with you all here today on bipartisan solutions to lower costs, improve competition, and get our patients more bang for the buck.
The complex drug pricing system has allowed Big Pharma and pharmacy benefit managers, which are the “middle men” responsible for negotiating drug prices, to take advantage of the secrecy in the pricing supply chain.
The bipartisan reforms we are fighting for and advocating for today would help fix the secrecy out of the pricing of drugs and save taxpayers more than $80 billion.
These reforms will cap out-of-pocket costs in Medicare, providing seniors with enhanced financial security.
Our efforts would reform payment incentives and ensure Big Pharma and pharmacy benefit managers have more skin in the game.
These reforms are the product of over one year of bipartisan negotiations.
Though this may not be what you hear on the news, bipartisan compromise isn’t dead.
I’m pleased to see my colleagues put politics aside and do what’s right for this country.
Lowering costs is more than just figures and numbers.
This is about keeping our families healthy without having to worry about how much it’s going to cost or if they can afford it.
This is about getting relief for the retiree whose worked and saved their entire life only to see the dollars they earned go down the drain because of high costs of prescription drugs.
The President is ready to sign prescription drug reform legislation and he’s committed to getting this done on behalf of the American people.
With strong support from this administration, I am confident we can achieve major reforms for the American people.
Montanans and Americans across the country want to see reform. And that’s why I’m standing here fighting for it.
Let’s move pass the congressional gridlock and get it done.
Together, Republican and Democrat, we can deliver a historic victory for the American people.
I will continue working to get this bill on the President’s desk.