Democrats introduce bills aimed at reducing drug prices

by Kim Boateng Posted on January 13th, 2019

Washington: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced three pieces of legislation to the Senate on Thursday focused on regulating prescription drug prices.

The three bills—the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act—aim to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by implementing government price controls and oversight.

The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act would index the price of prescription drugs to the median price of five different countries: Japan, France, Germany, Canada and the UK. In these countries, government regulation of drug prices already exists, therefore enabling citizens to purchase prescriptions at a lower cost. The Trump administration has advocated for a similar “international price-indexing” system in the past. If pharmaceutical manufacturers fail to lower drug prices to the required median price, the government will be required to approve cheaper, generic versions of the drugs into the market.

Coupled with the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act expands on government regulation of the drug market. Under the bill, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) would have the ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. This ability is currently prohibited under current law in order to promote competition and is known as the “noninterference clause.”

Lastly, Senators and Representatives propose to end the ban on importing prescription drugs from Canada. Under the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, HHS would issue regulations to licensed wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals to import qualifying drugs from Canadian sellers with FDA-inspected facilities. Controlled substances, anesthetic drugs or compounded drugs remain prohibited from importation.

Together, all three bills advocate for lower drug pricing and estimate to save the US around $360 billion across 10 years.

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