Legislative Update: September/October 2017

Legislative Update: September/October 2017

“Patients Are Getting Hammered”
By Jessie Gibbons, Senior Policy Analyst

Earlier this year, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (S. 771, H.R. 1776), legislation that would comprehensively reform the prescription drug industry to reduce costs and encourage innovation.  The bill – which was introduced by Senator Al Franken (MN) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) – includes seventeen provisions that would bring down skyrocketing prescription drug prices.

If adopted, it would make the following major changes, among many others:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices. Unlike Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Medicare program is currently prohibited from negotiating prescription drug prices on behalf of its 40 million beneficiaries. Doing so would reduce costs for beneficiaries and save the program billions of dollars annually.
  • Authorize prescription drug importation. Americans regularly spend twice as much as Canadians for the exact same prescription drugs.  Allowing individuals, pharmacies, and wholesalers to import prescriptions from approved pharmacies abroad would reduce out-of-pocket spending and increase competition in the American market.
  • Close the Part D “doughnut hole.” Around 5 million individuals fell into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” last year, and that number is expected to rise as prescription drug prices continue to soar. If adopted, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would close the Part D coverage gap by the end of 2018, providing financial relief to millions of older Americans.
  • Prohibit pay-for-delay deals. Under current law, brand name drug manufacturers regularly pay generic drug makers to delay the introduction of their products to the market. These anti-competitive deals are entirely legal in the current system, costing consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars each year.  Prohibiting pay-for-delay deals would undoubtedly increase access to more affordable prescriptions.
  • Increase price transparency. Congress must require greater transparency if it truly hopes to stabilize the rising costs of prescription drugs. If adopted, manufacturers would be responsible for disclosing all information that affects drug pricing, including the cost of research and development, money spent on advertisements, and revenues received from tax credits or grants.

Upon introducing the bill, Congressman Peter Welch (VT) – an original cosponsor of the House bill – said: “The market is broken.  Patients are getting hammered and hospitals are getting squeezed.  And Medicare, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, has been stripped of its ability to negotiate lower prices.  If we don’t take commonsense steps to make drugs more affordable, our health care system could collapse under the weight of prices that nobody can pay.”

TSCL agrees, and we enthusiastically support the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act.  In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for it on Capitol Hill, and we encourage our readers and supporters to contact their elected officials in Congress to request their support for the bill.

For contact information or for more information about the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or call us toll-free at 800-333-TSCL.