Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Drug Pricing

Posted on July 10, 2019

The question I hear most often is how can I reduce what Americans pay for health care out of their own pockets?

And the most obvious out-of-pocket cost for most Americans is what we pay for prescription drugs.
Shirley, from Franklin, Tennessee, is one of those Americans.
She wrote me recently saying:
 
“As a 71 year old senior with arthritis, I rely on Enbrel to keep my symptoms in check. My co pay has just been increased from $95.00 to $170.00 every ninety days. At this rate I will have to begin limiting my usage in order to balance the monthly budget.”
 
There has never been a more exciting time in biomedical research, but that progress is meaningless if patients cannot afford these new lifesaving drugs.
 
Last month, the Senate health committee passed legislation, by a vote of 20-3, that included fourteen bipartisan provisions to increase prescription drug competition to help more lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs reach patients.
 
This includes:
 
The CREATES Act, from Senators Grassley and Leahy, and many others, which will help bring more lower-cost generic drugs to patients by eliminating anti-competitive practices by brand drug makers.
 
Helping biosimilar companies speed drug development through a transparent, modernized, and searchable patent database. Senators Collins, Kaine, Braun, Hawley, Murkowski, Paul, Portman, Shaheen, and Stabenow worked on this provision.
 
Improves the Food and Drug Administration’s drug patent database by keeping it more up to date – to help generic drug companies speed product development, a proposal offered by Senators Cassidy and Durbin.
 
Prevents the abuse of citizens’ petitions that can unnecessarily delay drug approvals, from Senators Gardner, Shaheen, Cassidy, Bennet, Cramer, and Braun – and was proposed by the president in his fiscal year 2020 budget.
 
Clarifies that the makers of brand biological products, such as insulin, are not gaming the system to delay new, lower-cost biosimilars from coming to market, from Senators Smith, Cassidy, and Cramer;
 
Eliminates exclusivity loopholes that allow drug companies to get exclusivity – and delay patient access to less costly generic drugs – just by making small tweaks to an old drug, a proposal from Senators Roberts, Cassidy, and Smith – which was also proposed by the president in his budget; and
 
Prevents the blocking of generic drugs by eliminating a loophole that allows a first generic to submit an application to FDA and block other generics from the market – the president also proposed this in his budget.
 
Prevents delays of biosimilar drugs by excluding biological products from compliance with U.S. Pharmacopeia standards that do not apply to biosimilar drugs and could instead delay patient access – another proposal by the president.
 
Increases transparency on price and quality information by banning gag clauses in contracts between providers and health plans that prevent patients, plan sponsors, or referring physicians from seeing price and quality information.
 
And bans pharmacy benefit managers from charging more for a drug than it paid for the drug.
 
Instead of remaining stuck in a perpetual partisan argument over Obamacare and health insurance, senators are working across party lines to lower the costs of what Americans pay for health care out of their own pockets.
 
Since January, Senator Murray and I have been working in parallel with Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden, who lead the Finance Committee.
 
They are continuing to work on their own bipartisan bill.
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee also voted on legislation last month to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
 
And in the House, the Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Judiciary Committees have all reported out bipartisan bills on the cost of prescription drugs.
 
This is also something President Trump and Secretary Azar are focused on.
 
Last year, the Administration released a blueprint on steps to take to lower what Americans pay for prescription drugs and included proposals aimed at lowering the cost of drugs in the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
 
And last year, the Food and Drug Administration set a new record for generic drug approvals, which can be up to 85 percent less expensive than brand drugs when there are multiple approved generics. 
 
I believe the cost of prescription drug is an area where Congress and the Administration can find common ground to help reduce what Americans pay out of their own pockets for health care.