Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal

Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal
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Drug pricing advocates are decrying the budget deal announced Wednesday for leaving out a bipartisan drug pricing measure that they had pushed for.

The measure would prevent branded drug companies from using delay tactics to prevent cheaper generic competitors from coming onto the market. 

It is one of the few drug pricing measures that has bipartisan support in Congress, but it did not end up being included in the bipartisan budget deal announced Wednesday.

Drug pricing advocates are blaming the pharmaceutical industry, which has been lobbying hard against the measure. They point out that much of the rest of the health-care world supports it. 

“Who's opposing it? Big pharma and front groups that are bought and paid for by big pharma,” said Chip Davis, CEO of the Association for Accessible Medicines, which represents generic drug companies. “There’s your answer.” 

Advocates did praise the budget deal for closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare a year early, a move that saves seniors money on drug costs and shifts some costs onto pharmaceutical companies. But they said that provision does not make up for the loss of the CREATES Act. 

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The American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, the conservative group FreedomWorks and the liberal group Families USA also support the measure.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) did not comment directly on its lobbying efforts on the bill but warned the measure would create “frivolous litigation.”

The bill would allow generic drug makers to sue to obtain the samples they need to bring their cheaper, competing drugs onto the market.

“The current version of the CREATES Act would be a giveaway to trial lawyers by adding a new private right of action that would increase lawsuits and drive up costs for patients and taxpayers,” said Andrew Powaleny, a PhRMA spokesman, adding that the group wants to work to amend the bill.

A GOP aide also pointed to the litigation concern when asked why the measure was not included, adding that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has already been taking action to speed the approval of cheaper generic drugs.

“CREATES [was] out because a lot of Republicans are cautious about expanding private rights of action for trial lawyers, even if there are concerns about drug prices,” the GOP aide said. “The new FDA commissioner is being pretty aggressive in this space. Let’s see if that works before potentially helping out the trial bar.”

Drug pricing advocates say they were working into Wednesday night to get the measure included, but it was not.

"It is disappointing that Congress missed an opportunity to pass this pro-competitive reform that would end some of the most egregious abuses by branded manufacturers and reduce drug prices for millions of Americans,” said Will Holley, a spokesman for the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing. “We will work with the bipartisan, bicameral sponsors to pass this important legislation in this Congress.”