4:03 PM
Jan 10, 2019
 |  BC Extra  |  Politics & Policy

Sanders, Democratic co-sponsors to reintroduce drug pricing bills

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic co-sponsors plan to reintroduce legislation for Congress’ new term aimed at reducing drug prices through reference pricing, drug importation and Medicare Part D drug negotiation.

The first bill, the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, seeks to waive or void patents and market exclusivities for branded drugs if U.S. prices exceed an international index. The approach is similar to a more limited Trump administration proposal for an international pricing index for Medicare Part B reimbursement (see "Sanders, Khanna Propose Compulsory Licensing to Reduce U.S. Drug Prices").

The second bill, the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, would allow HHS Secretary Alex Azar to negotiate directly with drug companies on pricing.

The third bill, the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, would allow importation of drugs from Canada and potentially other countries as well. It resembles a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate Wednesday by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would allow importation of drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada (see "Bipartisan Bill Would Allow Drug Imports From Canada").

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a co-sponsor on the importation bill, said in a press conference the bill would save Americans $6 billion over 10 years.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced the committee's first hearing on Jan. 29 would cover prescription drug pricing.

The pharmaceutical industry also continues to face pricing pressure from the Trump administration. In a series of tweets Wednesday, Azar urged companies to drop list prices and applauded "good behavior" from Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN), which he said lowered the prices of some of their drugs.

"Anyone who hasn’t spent through their deductible or has coinsurance is paying all or a percentage of the list price of the drugs they need. List prices matter," he said.

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