Washington disarray throws drug pricing back into a muddle

Disagreements over drug pricing proposals are creating an unpredictable agenda for everyone

While the urgent need for government action to reduce drug prices is the only issue American politicians agree on regardless of their party affiliation or ideology, there is far from a consensus on solutions.

Factions in Congress and the Trump administration have contradictory ideas about the best ways to bring down drug prices, and their reluctance to compromise could have immense consequences for patients and the economy.

Competing ideas about the path forward were on display at a July 25 Senate Finance Committee markup hearing. Even after it was endorsed by the White House, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had to rely on votes from Democrats to advance the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) because members of his party revolted over provisions intended to limit Medicare drug price increases to consumer inflation.

Grassley’s staff will be working overtime throughout the August recess to find compromises that could bring more Republicans on board (see “Republicans Balk”).

If they succeed, PDPRA could be combined with the bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act (S. 1895), a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill that seeks to squeeze PBM profits out of the drug supply chain, eliminate tactics branded drug manufacturers use to block generic and biosimilar competition, and smooth the path to market for biosimilars (see “Senate Commitee Passes Bill Squeezing PBMs”).

In comments to reporters after the Finance Committee markup hearing, Grassley warned his Republican colleagues that continued gridlock could set the stage for measures that they will like even less

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