Alexander: Help on Way for Americans Struggling to Afford Prescriptions

Posted on June 12, 2018

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2018 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that the Trump Administration’s comprehensive drug pricing blueprint will bring “help to the one in eight Americans who say it is difficult to afford their prescriptions.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified at today’s hearing, which was the committee’s fourth hearing this Congress on the price Americans pay for their prescription drugs.

“The Administration is taking action for the same reason we held our hearings: we all know many Americans struggle to afford their prescriptions,” Alexander said. “But, when we talk about the cost of prescription drugs, we have to keep in mind that we are living in a time of remarkable biomedical research that is leading to new and lifesaving drugs.”

Alexander continued: “Included in the blueprint are some steps the Administration has started to take or are planning to take. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to start going after bad actors gaming the system to delay generics from going to market. This is also a place where Secretary Azar can use the bully pulpit to enact change. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has already released a list of companies blocking access to their drugs and delaying generics coming to market, shining light on the questionable behavior of these companies.”

“Another action FDA is considering is requiring drug manufacturers to include the list price of a drug in television commercials or other advertising materials. The blueprint also proposes ending the so-called ‘gag-rule’ that prevents a pharmacist from telling a patient a drug would be cheaper if they paid out of pocket instead of with their insurance.”

Alexander concluded: “I also would like to hear how Congress can help. At our previous hearings, I questioned the need for rebates, because they make it difficult to track where the money goes, and I understand that the Administration may need some additional authorities to modify or end the use of rebates to increase transparency.”

This was the committee’s fourth in a series of hearings this Congress on the price of prescription drugs. The first hearing in June 2017 examined the path a prescription drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration takes from the manufacturer to patient, and how this path affects what the patient pays. At a second hearing in October, the committee heard from industry experts on what goes into the price Americans pay when picking up their prescriptions. The committee held a third hearing in December to hear from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on a report they published on making medicine more affordable.

Alexander’s full prepared remarks are here.

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