Congressional Corner: “Pay For Delay” Must End--To Protect our Seniors

Congressional Corner: “Pay For Delay” Must End–To Protect our Seniors

Senator David Vitter (LA)

When it comes to the quality of everyday life for seniors, one of the most important variables is access to prescription drugs. Many folks take them every day without a second thought. But what if you could no longer afford these important medications, or, if you had to choose between them and other necessities like food or rent? Even slight price increases can create real financial burdens for many seniors and their families. Unfortunately, the price of prescription drugs has been on the rise over the last several years – and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And a big part of the reason is underhanded collusion by some drug companies themselves. Drug manufacturers have figured out a way to beat the system and guarantee money in their pockets – at your expense.

The practice I'm talking about is known as a “Pay For Delay”. It occurs when brand-name drug manufacturers sue manufacturers of generic drugs and then pay them large sums of money specifically to keep their cheaper generic drugs off the market and unavailable to consumers, including our seniors. These settlements can make generic medications unavailable for years into the future – years during which those brand-name drug manufacturers can continue making huge profits with no competition.

These settlements are only a good deal for the drug manufacturers involved – brand name and generic. They are a flat-out bad deal for patients. Pay-for-delay deals make necessary prescriptions unaffordable for many seniors and their families.

To fix this, I've introduced the FAIR Generics Act, which would stop pay-for-delay deals once and for all. Doing so would make high-quality, lower-priced generic prescription medications available to patients sooner, thus lowering prescription drug prices in numerous cases.

My legislation isn’t meant to punish all drug manufacturers. These businesses play an important role in researching and developing new, effective medications, and we want them to succeed. Congress has passed legislation that makes sure drug manufacturers have enough time to recoup their research and development costs before generics are allowed to compete. My bill will simply prevent abuse of the system--extending that protected period out, way beyond what was intended.

Instead, my legislation promotes true market competition, which will both improve the quality of our prescription drugs and lower their price. It helps seniors by making sure generic drug makers can make high-quality, lower-priced prescription medications available sooner. In fact, according to a preliminary analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this should save consumers and the federal government billions of dollars. That's right, billions with a B.

Better access to quality, cheaper generic prescription drugs will provide real relief for many seniors and their families. With building bipartisan support, I’m very hopeful we can push this important reform through Congress.