By Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA)
People with conditions such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and HIV have had their lives transformed, even saved, as a result of innovations by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Everyone knows someone who has benefited from the industry’s research and development efforts. While we should be grateful for the work they do, something must be done about the high cost of prescription drugs. Innovative medicines only work when they’re used. At nearly all of my 99 county meetings, Iowans talk to me about prescription drug costs. They tell me stories of rationing medications and leaving prescriptions at the pharmacy counter because they couldn’t afford them. A hard discussion about prescription drug prices is long overdue.
I believe in the free-market principle of increasing competition to lower prices. Competition is one reason why generic medications have become an affordable staple in America’s medicine cabinet. We need more competition in the prescription drug space and should stop abusive conduct that keeps costs high. That’s why I’ve cosponsored bipartisan legislation including: S.64, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act; S.340, the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act; and S.205, the Right Rebate Act. These bills deter bad actors from undermining competition.
I also believe Congress has the responsibility to review government programs like Medicare Part B and Part D to ensure they’re working as intended. This also applies to Medicaid. Currently, under my chairmanship, the Senate Finance Committee is taking a systematic look at these programs to determine how to modernize them in a way that reduces out-of-pocket expense for consumers while ensuring good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Our oversight of Medicare B and D and Medicaid will result in legislation to improve these programs for those who use them.
Transparency is a powerful tool that leads to accountability. The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which I co-authored, created the Open Payments website at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It requires pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies to report payments made to healthcare providers. Often these payments are legitimate investments in research, but by requiring reporting, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and health care providers are held accountable.
Everyone in earshot of a television has heard an advertisement for a prescription drug. These ads tell you a drug’s benefits and side effects, but not its list price. I support the Administration’s effort to force drug companies to include the list price of drugs on all television ads. This approach worked when we required car companies to put the price on the window of a car and I believe it will have the same effect for prescription drugs.
High prescription drug costs impact millions of Americans. It’s time we address the problems and find workable solutions that will preserve the industry’s incentives to continue developing new and improved prescription drugs while reducing costs for the patients who depend on them.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.