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Cliff Owen / AP

Sen. Chuck Grassley has been one of the most consistent Republicans speaking out against rising prescription drug prices. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he plans to push legislation this year making it easier for generics to get to market. He's hoping that will add competition and drive down prices.

What to know:

  • Grassley sees his two bills increasing competition as likely to gain some traction, but he doesn't see the same odds for legislation allowing prescription drugs to be imported from abroad.
  • Drug price legislation could be wrapped into the Obamacare debate if it saves money and helps pay for the replacement, he said.

Read more for excerpts from our interview.

What he hopes to accomplish this year on prescription drug prices:

To get generics to market faster, and to increase competition to drive prices down. To do that, he wants three new policies:

  1. Crack down on "pay for play," when an off-patent drug pays a generic company to keep it from bringing competition to market.
  2. Pass the CREATES Act, which allows a generic drug manufacturer to bring an action to federal court when brand manufacturers are engaging in delay tactics, like withholding information necessary for the generic company to bring their product to market.
  3. Allow the importation of drugs from abroad.

What he thinks is likely to happen this year:

"I think the first two bills would be the easiest. I wish importation of drugs would be easier, but I've been involved in debates on importation of drugs I'll bet for 20 years. Sometimes they pass the Senate but they never get to the president, sometimes they don't pass the Senate. Because the pharmaceutical industry is so strong politically."

When he's likely to hold hearings on the Judiciary bills:

Probably not until March or April, when the committee is finished with nominations.

If those three policies passed, would they solve the drug price issue?

"I don't think so entirely. I think FTC being a little more aggressive would help. I think more oversight by Congress and just public opinion, where you've got like over the last year, we've had so many outstanding examples."

Any vehicles for getting the bills passed?

"If they saved big amounts of money for the Medicare and Medicaid programs ... then that should be a secondary reason for getting them passed. But it might be the locomotive that brings them along."

  • A Grassley aide said a preliminary analysis showed CREATES saves $2.9 billion over 10 years. That's not pocket change, and lawmakers are always looking for ways to pay for other bills.

Do you think some of this could get wrapped into the Obamacare debate?

Yes, if it could be used to pay for parts of the replacement.

What would you like to see the new administration do about drug prices?

Crack down on the way drugs are classified for payment in federal programs. And: "Maybe ... just the bully pulpit of the presidency. Talking about it may do a great deal to help."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

CDC says fully vaccinated people can take fewer precautions

Photo: Filip Filipovic/Getty Images

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: Per the report, there's early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

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