Jul 23, 2019

House Democrats' drug bill coming in September

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Democrats will release a bill on drug pricing in September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top health care aide, Wendell Primus, said yesterday at a Brookings event.

Details: Primus said the bill will focus on the most expensive drugs — primarily, those that have been on the market a long time and still don't have any competition.

  • Once drugs have recouped their research and development costs, he said, "you should be able to push the price down ... well below international prices."
  • The bill would force HHS to negotiate prices directly, and it would include a tax or fee, based on sales, to try to bring drugmakers to the table.
  • Primus said the goal is for HHS' negotiated price to also apply to private insurance plans, so that drugmakers couldn't raise their prices on private plans to compensate for lower prices in Medicare and Medicaid.

What's next: The bill is close to finished, but leadership opted not to introduce it before the August recess, when pharma would have a month to attack it while lawmakers are back in their districts, Primus said.

What we're watching: This proposal could face criticism both from the left and right. Progressives have already said they're worried it won't go far enough, and Republicans have traditionally been loath to let the government set drug prices.

  • If there's a political way forward here, it may depend on a Pelosi-Trump partnership. What a time to be alive.

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How Democrats want to limit drug prices

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Democratic presidential candidates' plans to lower drug prices are much more aggressive than what the party has supported in the past.

Between the lines: There are big differences among the candidates' platforms, but the entire debate has shifted to the left.

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Senators release bipartisan drug pricing bill

Sens. Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Senate is ready to start moving forward with a bipartisan bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs, after Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released a detailed outline of the proposal this morning. The Finance Committee will debate the bill Thursday.

What's next: The Senate package would redesign Medicare's drug benefit and allow new payment models in Medicaid, among other changes. And it puts drug prices squarely at the center of Congress' fall agenda: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top health care aide said yesterday that House Democrats will introduce their own bill after the August recess.

Keep ReadingArrowJul 23, 2019

Importation isn't a silver bullet to lower drug prices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is moving forward on the traditionally Democratic policy of importing prescription drugs from abroad, but the impact — if the proposals are actually finalized — could be pretty muted.

The big picture: While importation could help some patients afford their drugs, the policy overall is an attempt to take advantage of other countries' lower drug prices while avoiding taking direct action to limit prices in the U.S.

Go deeperArrowAug 1, 2019