House of Representatives Passes Pelosi Drug Bill 230-192

The House of Representatives, on Thursday, voted 230-192 to pass Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-California, HR 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, although the White House has already said it will veto the measure, assuming it is ever brought to the Senate floor and passes.
Allison Inserro
December 12, 2019
The House of Representatives, on Thursday, voted 230-192 to pass Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-California, HR 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, although the White House has already said it will veto the measure, assuming it is ever brought to the Senate floor and passes.

Legislators debated for hours Wednesday night and Thursday morning on what has the potential to be a complete overhaul in US prescription drug pricing.

For the first time, HHS would have the ability to allow Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices and seek rebates from drug makers if their prices soar above inflation.

The secretary of HHS would be authorized annually to negotiate prices for up to 250 of the most costly drugs that lack a generic or biosimilar competitor, including both Part D and Part B. Insulin would have been included as well, and Wednesday night, some Democratic representatives talked about the impact insulin pricing has had on their constituents.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican lawmakers advocated instead for HR 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, and said that HR 3 would reduce pharmaceutical and biotech innovation, even possible cures.

The lawmakers were referring to an October Congressional Budget Office preliminary estimate that if HR 3 becomes law, between 8 and 15 fewer drugs would come to market over 10 years.

In a post earlier this month, however, PolitiFact, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization, pointed out that the FDA approves about 30 new drugs, on average, annually—or 300 new drugs over 10 years. Over time, the loss of new therapeutics would be perhaps 5%, if there were 15 fewer drugs out of 300 projected approvals. In addition, there has been no analysis about the clinical value of these potential future drugs that might not ever come to market.

HR 3 was supported by organizations like the AARP.

“High drug prices disproportionately hurt older Americans, who take an average of four to five prescription medications each month. The average annual price of a single specialty drug now costs $79,000. Medicare beneficiaries have modest median annual incomes of just over $26,000. Medications cannot help you if you cannot afford them,” said Nancy LeaMonde, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, in a statement Wednesday.

HR 3 will assign penalties to drug companies that refuse to negotiate with HHS on pricing. It would also require drug makers to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike their prices beyond the increase in inflation, and cap what seniors pay out of pocket for their medications to $2000 a year.

 

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