Bills put forth on drug costs

Democrats urge Trump to back plans for low­er­ing prices

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - RI­CARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

WASH­ING­TON — Chal­leng­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to make good on his pledge to cut pre­scrip­tion drug prices, con­gres­sional lib­er­als pro­posed leg­is­la­tion Thursday to bring U.S. prices in line with the much lower costs in other coun­tries.

The Demo­cratic bills stand lit­tle chance of be­com­ing law in a di­vided govern­ment. But the effort could put Repub­li­cans on the de­fen­sive by echo­ing Trump’s pledge to force drug­mak­ers to cut prices.

Democrats and Trump agree that peo­ple in the United States shouldn’t have to pay more for their med­i­ca­tions than do those in other eco­nom­i­cally ad­vanced coun­tries.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has put for­ward its own plan for re­duc­ing drug prices, but in­dus­try an­a­lysts have seen lit­tle im­pact so far. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try said the Demo­cratic bills would “wreak havoc on the U.S. health care sys­tem.”

The new leg­is­la­tion was of­fered by Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md., and oth­ers. Cum­mings leads the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, which is ex­pected to take a ma­jor role on drug pric­ing.

The law­mak­ers want to:

■ Open up generic com­pe­ti­tion to patent-pro­tected U.S. brand-name drugs that are deemed “ex­ces­sively priced.”

■ Al­low Medi­care to di­rectly ne­go­ti­ate with drug­mak­ers.

■ Let con­sumers im­port lower-priced med­i­ca­tions from Canada.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“To­day I say to Pres­i­dent Trump, if you are se­ri­ous about low­er­ing the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs in this coun­try, sup­port our leg­is­la­tion and get your Repub­li­can col­leagues on board,” San­ders said at a Capi­tol Hill press con­fer­ence.

“No more talk. No more tweets,” said Cum­mings. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple want ac­tion.”

Holly Camp­bell, a spokesman for the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Re­search and Man­u­fac­tur­ers of Amer­ica, said San­ders’ plan would harm U.S. pa­tients. The in­dus­try ar­gues that govern­ment price reg­u­la­tion could limit ac­cess to some medicines, un­der­mine fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for re­search, and com­pro­mise safety stan­dards. San­ders says drug­mak­ers are pri­mar­ily in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing prof­its.

As a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Trump ini­tially called for Medi­care to ne­go­ti­ate drug prices and fa­vored al­low­ing peo­ple to legally im­port lower-priced med­i­ca­tions from abroad.

But Medi­care ne­go­ti­a­tion is a po­lit­i­cal non­starter for most Repub­li­cans, who fa­vor a free-mar­ket ap­proach to the U.S. phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try and prize its ca­pac­ity for in­no­va­tion.

As pres­i­dent, Trump has come out with a plan to lower drug costs that re­lies on dozens of reg­u­la­tory ac­tions. The goal is to elim­i­nate in­cen­tives for drug­mak­ers, phar­macy ben­e­fit man­agers and in­sur­ers to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion at the ex­pense of con­sumers. In­de­pen­dent ex­perts say the ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­pos­als would have an im­pact, but not limit the abil­ity of drug com­pa­nies to set high prices.

Trump has com­plained that other coun­tries where govern­ments set drug prices are tak­ing ad­van­tage of Amer­i­cans. One of his ideas would shift Medi­care pay­ments for drugs ad­min­is­tered in doc­tors’ of­fices to a level based on in­ter­na­tional prices.

“We are tak­ing aim at the global freeload­ing that forces Amer­i­can con­sumers to sub­si­dize lower prices in for­eign coun­tries through higher prices in our coun­try,” the pres­i­dent said when he made that pro­posal shortly be­fore last year’s con­gres­sional elec­tions.

AP/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt. (cen­ter), joined by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. (from left), Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks to re­porters as he pre­pares to in­tro­duce new leg­is­la­tion that aims to re­duce what Amer­i­cans pay for pre­scrip­tion drugs, es­pe­cially brand-name drugs deemed “ex­ces­sively priced,” dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Thursday on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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