Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill Now Includes Amendment to Boost Biosimilars

H.R. 3, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed 2 committees in the House of Representatives Thursday, with a bipartisan amendment intended to boost uptake of biosimilars tucked inside.   
Allison Inserro
October 18, 2019
H.R. 3, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed 2 committees in the House of Representatives Thursday, with a bipartisan amendment intended to boost uptake of biosimilars tucked inside.   

At the hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, legislators amended the bill to include a proposal from Representatives Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, and Greg Gianforte, R-Montana. The change would increase reimbursement for biosimilar drugs in Medicare Part B to the average sales price (ASP) plus 8%, up from the current 6% plus ASP, for 5 years. The idea was introduced last month as a separate bill, the BIOSIM Act.

The bill, which was also passed in the Education and Labor Committee, aims to lower prescription drug costs by giving the federal government the ability to negotiate price based on an international pricing index and sets a $2000 out-of-pocket limit in Medicare Part D.

Another amendment increased the minimum number of drugs that the administration could negotiate from the top 25 most costly drugs to the top 35. And it raised the threshold for drugs that could be subject to HHS negotiations from those with 1 generic competitor to those with 2 generic competitors.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is moving ahead with the bill despite the communication breakdown with President Donald Trump, who campaigned on lowering drug prices, but is now the subject of an impeachment inquiry, making the bill’s future in the Republican-controlled Senate uncertain.

Pelosi’s bill would force companies to negotiate by imposing strict taxes on the medications if the firms refused. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the legislation would cut industry revenues by $500 billion to $1 trillion over 10 years, but also save Medicare $345 billion over 7 years, partly because beneficiaries would no longer have to engage in drug rationing, and thus staying healthier.

A separate estimate from HHS found that households would save $158 billion over 10 years.

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to mark up and vote on the measure next week, setting the bill up for a full House vote during the last week of October, according to reports.

The AARP was one of the organizations testifying in favor of the bill in Ways and Means, which had a hearing Thursday. Last month, the organization released a report saying drug prices have been rising for 12 straight years.

“Simply put, current prescription drug price trends are not sustainable. There is no reason Americans should continue to have to pay the highest brand-name drug prices in the world. No one should be forced to choose between buying groceries and buying the prescription drugs they need. It is long past time for Congress to take action to lower prescription drug prices,” said AARP National Volunteer President Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, in remarks prepared for testimony.

 

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