Apr 9, 2019

GOP senators take a sharp left turn on drug prices

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Freshman GOP Sens. Rick Scott and Josh Hawley introduced a new drug pricing bill last week that could have been written by Bernie Sanders, and it's not being attacked by GOP leadership.

The bottom line: The bill would, among other things, ban drug companies from charging Americans a higher list price than they charge consumers in Canada, France, the U.K., Japan or Germany.

Details: The bill doesn't limit this requirement to any particular drug market, meaning it goes much further than the Trump administration's proposal to tie Medicare Part B drug prices to the price of those drugs in other countries.

What they're saying: "I’m sure [Pharma] hate[s] it," Hawley told me. "But look, they're not good actors. I mean, Big Pharma has gotten a sweetheart deal, they’ve gotten huge, they’ve gotten powerful, they’ve gotten rich, and I’m not terribly sympathetic to their position on this."

  • "It’s got people talking, I’ll put it that way," said Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, when I asked him about the bill.

My thought bubble: If you haven't yet been convinced that the politics surrounding drug prices has changed, think again.

Go deeper: Congress confronts drug prices

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 41 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."