Lawmakers Urge Government to Finalize Rules to Boost Competition and Lower Drug Prices

Lawmakers Urge Government to Finalize Rules to Boost Competition and Lower Drug Prices

In what could be another weapon in the battle against high drug prices, two Democratic lawmakers, one in the Senate and one in the House, have sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to finalize rules that could result in more competition and lower prices in the pharmaceutical industry.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas say in their letter that their review of comments about a “march-in rights” process has received broad support from seniors, dozens of healthcare providers, and the wider public.

March-in rights allow the federal government to grant patent licenses to other parties or take licenses for themselves if the government helped fund the patent owner's research and development. Such licenses can even be granted to competitors if the government deems it necessary. The proposal would help boost competition and reduce drug prices for American families by allowing the federal government to step in when private actors, including drug manufacturers, charge exorbitant prices for products that taxpayers helped pay to develop.

In the letter, the lawmakers drew attention to an analysis that gathered over 50,000 comments and revealed that Americans are paying more for drugs that their tax dollars were used to develop than what residents in other high-income countries are paying for those same drugs. The comments further reflect concerns from healthcare providers, who are calling for change on behalf of their patients and Americans across the country, especially seniors, who are struggling to afford their medication and view march-in rights as a way to reduce drug prices.

"Although big pharmaceutical companies are fighting this commonsense framework," their letter concluded, "there is a consensus among seniors, health care providers, and the general public: price must be a factor in agencies' considerations for the use of march-in rights. We urge you to strengthen and finalize the guidance without delay to ensure that American taxpayers and consumers are able to access taxpayer-funded inventions at affordable prices."