Senate Republicans seek to repeal new government drug price negotiations
With the midterm elections approaching next month and Republicans likely to win back control of either the House, Senate or both, Republican Sens. James Lankford (OK) and Mike Lee (UT) recently introduced a bill that would gut the Democrats’ recent drug pricing victory.
That new law will allow for drug price negotiations, and even potentially price controls (via the threat of steep fines), for a sliver of the most expensive drugs for seniors, all of which will have already been on the market for years.
But the Republicans aren’t seeking to just roll back the federal government’s new negotiation authority under Medicare, but also remove the newly passed rebates that drug companies would have to pay if their prices rise faster than the rate of inflation, and yank a provision that would cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year.
“Price controls never work. Instead, they exacerbate the problems they seek to resolve,” Lee said in a statement. “Mandating fixed prescription drug prices will ultimately result in the shortening of American lives.”
But on the effort to repeal the caps on seniors’ out-of-pocket costs, experts noted that Republicans have supported such price caps in recent memory.
For instance, House Energy & Commerce committee Republican leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Ways and Means committee Republican leader Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Education and Labor committee Republican leader Virginia Foxx (R-NC) unveiled legislation in April 2021 that the sponsors said offered the “first-ever out-of-pocket cap for seniors in the Medicare Part D program.”
One noteworthy aspect of emerging Republican support for repealing the IRA's drug pricing reforms is that Rs are proposing to repeal parts of the law (those reducing seniors' out-of-pocket costs) that Republican members of Congress have recently supported. Brief thread. (1/4) https://t.co/YTIggbkEf7
— Rachel Sachs (@RESachs) October 7, 2022
But Lankford maintained that any prescription drug price reforms should take on pharma’s foes, like the middlemen that make money from the gaps in the list and net prices of drugs.
“The ongoing issues with pharmacy benefit managers, the drug pricing middlemen, were also not addressed in the Democrats’ bill. We need more drug options, not less. We need more competition, not price controls. We need innovation, not stagnation,” he said.
Democrats, meanwhile, who passed the Inflation Reduction Act without a single Republican vote, are rapidly pulling together a team at CMS to implement these new authorities, and have $3 billion from the new law to start.
According to a report in STAT News last week, former Arnold Ventures VP Kristi Martin, who also helped implement the Affordable Care Act, will oversee staffing of the new CMS drug pricing team.
Arnold Ventures, which praised the passage of the IRA and helped start the drug cost-effectiveness watchdog ICER with $5 million that began with a grant almost 10 years after ICER grew from a research program at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Population Medicine in 2006. ICER has made a name for itself as one of the biggest thorns in the side of biopharma companies. And its deep pockets have meant that the nonprofit has spent upwards of $170 million since 2014 in its fight to bring down the price of drugs, according to the Pink Sheet.
Editor’s note: Article updated to note that Arnold Ventures provided its first grant to ICER 10 years after it began at Harvard.