Thursday, June 20, 2024

U.S. House Democrats divided on drug-price bill

by BIZ Magazine

By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

An ambitious proposal to give a federal agency the ability to set and negotiate drug prices has members of Congress under pressure from both sides of the argument.

H.R. 3 would empower the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate the cost of many drugs in the American market and would cap prices based on rates in other wealthy countries.

Supporters of the legislation said it would lower the cost of prescription drugs significantly for consumers, many of whom are using federal tax dollars to pay for them.

“Big pharmaceutical companies are charging Americans prices that are three, four, or even 10 times higher than what they charge for the same drugs in other countries – even though they admit they still make a profit overseas,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in 2020. “That ends with H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.”

Others warn that handing a government agency the power to control some of the most common drugs in the market will stifle innovation and limit Americans’ access to newer, potentially life-saving therapies.

“Because constraining drug revenue would lessen expected profitability of new drugs, H.R. 3 is likely to reduce incentives for research and development,” a 2020 analysis from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund read. “A key policy consideration involves weighing the societal trade-off between fewer new drugs coming to market versus the increased affordability of existing drugs.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee soon could consider the newest iteration of the bill. A handful of centrist Democrats, some sitting on the aforementioned committee, have made it clear the measure is an overreach.

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-California, and nine other lawmakers wrote Pelosi in May, stating how important it is to “preserve our invaluable innovation ecosystem,” and asked the speaker to seek a bipartisan option.

“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all, truly, must be in this together,” they wrote.

Americans for Prosperity, a free-market nonprofit, has launched a series of ad campaigns pressuring lawmakers on the committee that have expressed doubts about H.R. 3 to vote against it.

“A rationing scheme that puts the government in charge of Americans’ medicine cabinets is the wrong prescription that would only hurt those who need help,” said Dean Clancy, senior health policy fellow at Americans for Prosperity. “Lawmakers should stand firm against this deeply misguided legislation, and instead support a personal option that expands access to affordable medications without government price fixing.”

In addition to Peters, AFP has targeted U.S. Reps. Mark O’Halleran, D-Arizona; Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon; Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware; and Kathleen Rice, D-New York.

An earlier iteration of H.R. 3 made its way out of the House along mostly partisan lines in 2019 but couldn’t garner the votes in the Senate.

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