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House Democrats' drug bill coming in September

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
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.