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House Democrats finally pass landmark drug pricing bill

Proposed legislation met with harsh criticism from pharma industry

US Court House

After much tweaking and negotiation, a drug pricing bill backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was passed in the US in a 230 to 192 vote. 

This is particularly significant because in passing the bill, the Democrats have delivered one of their main 2018 campaign promises – a contention that could lend them favour in the upcoming campaign trail next year.

The first versions of the legislation were leaked in September, and since then the bill has been modified to appease the contested opinions within the House.

It is also unlikely to go any further from here on out – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell and the Trump administration have categorically said they will not support the bill. In the event that the bill does pass through the Senate, Trump has said he would veto the bill, according to Politico.

However, the passing of the bill does mark a historic moment for the Democrats, and sets a precedent for the US pharma industry which has, until now, faced little scrutiny or curtailing legislation over skyrocketing drug prices in the country.

The bill includes proposals to give the government negotiating powers on at least 25 Medicare Part D drugs annually – this would require federal officials to negotiate the cost of around 50 drugs per year.

The legislation would also limit drugmakers' ability to drive medicine prices up annually in Medicare, forcing them to pay a rebate to the government if prices increase faster than the rate of inflation. It would also place a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

The bill’s overarching ambition is to extend Medicare benefits across dental, vision and hearing coverage to seniors. It also proposes additional investments for federal research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, and governmental efforts to counteract the opioid addiction crisis.

Missing from the bill was the previously drafted 250 drug hit-list, which would have meant that the maximum negotiated price for these drugs could be no more than 1.2 the average price levied in six index countries – including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK.

Republicans, as well as pharma industry leaders, have argued that limiting the prices of certain drugs would discourage the sector from investing in crucial research and development for new medicines.

"This (bill) would lead to the loss of anywhere from 30 to 100 or more new medicines over the next ten years, leaving patients with some of the serious diseases, like Alzheimer's, ALS and cancer, without hope for the treatments and cures they need," said Stephen Ubl, CEO of PhRMA.

The backdrop to these ongoing efforts to curb drug prices is the impeachment proceedings currently being levied against President Trump.

Initially, the White House and Pelosi’s office had been in direct discussions for her bill, with Trump backing a bipartisan solution, but this ultimately fell through thanks to the Democrats’ effort to oust the President from office.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

13th December 2019

From: Regulatory

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