A bill called the “Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act” (S771) was introduced on March 29, 2017, by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and 15 co-sponsoring Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act by bringing down the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs, which the Senators state is one of the main reasons why healthcare costs are rising.
The bill seeks to tackle prescription drug costs by increasing transparency and accountability, boosting access and affordability of key drugs, spurring innovation, and increasing choice and competition. A companion bill [H 1776] with the same name was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and 4 co-sponsoring Democrats.
The bill notes “much of the biomedical innovation motivating new drug discovery is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal programs.” To better understand how research and development costs, manufacturing and marketing costs, acquisitions, federal investments, revenues and sales, and other factors influence drug prices, the bill requires drug makers to disclose this information, by product, to the secretary of the HHS, who in turn will make it publicly available.
The bill will examine how patient assistance programs affect drug prices and “the extent to which drug makers are using independent charity assistance programs to drive up profits.” It also allows the secretary of HHS to negotiate with drug companies to lower prescription drug prices for Medicare, which it is not currently allowed to do. HHS can only negotiate drug prices for Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In addition, the bill will do the following: