Legislative Update for Week Ending February 5, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 5, 2016

This week, a House committee held a high-profile hearing on recent developments in the prescription drug market, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for one key bill.

Oversight Committee Examines Prescription Drug Market

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a high-profile hearing on recent developments in the prescription drug market. According to the committee, thirty of the top-selling drugs in the United States experienced price increases of 76 percent between 2010 and 2014 – eight times the general inflation rate.

Members of the committee questioned several witnesses at Thursday’s hearing, including Dr. Janet Woodcock (Director at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration), Nancy Retzlaff (Chief Commercial Officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals), and Martin Shkreli (founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals).

Last year, under Shkreli’s direction, Turing Pharmaceuticals made headlines for buying the rights to a decades-old anti-infective drug and hiking its price from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had tough questions for Turing’s representatives at Thursday’s hearing, and each of them expressed their dismay for the price gouging that is occurring in the pharmaceutical market.

In his opening statement, Congressman Buddy Carter (GA-1) – the sole pharmacist in Congress – said, “I’m disgusted that we’re here today to talk about drug price increases … I know free market principles are the best way to provide quality, affordable health care to the American people. But what was done here was different. Perverse business practices were employed to exploit a patient group trying to do nothing more than to extend their lives … I’ll tell you that you can meet your shareholders’ needs, that you can meet your board’s needs, and still take care of the American public.”

Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Ranking Member of the Committee, agreed, saying: “Drug company executives are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation … [People in my district] struggle every single month to pay the increasing cost of housing, education, and health care. They live from paycheck to paycheck and sometimes from no check to no check.” He went on to promote his bill, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, which would take several steps to ensure more affordable prescription drugs, including greater price transparency.

TSCL agrees with Congressman Carter and Ranking Member Cummings, and we believe Congress must act before the end of this year to prevent price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry. We enthusiastically support the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, and we will advocate for it tirelessly in the months ahead. For updates on the bill’s progress, visit the Legislative News section of our website, or follow us on Twitter.

Key Bill Gains Cosponsor

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 973). The cosponsor total is now up to 137. If signed into law, the bill would repeal two federal provisions that unfairly reduce or eliminate the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year. TSCL enthusiastically supports the Social Security Fairness Act, and we were pleased to see one new cosponsor sign on to it this week.