GOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill

GOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Iowa) said Monday he is in talks with drug companies about a possible deal to pass a drug-pricing bill in exchange for separate action that the companies want.

Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is hoping the Senate will soon pass a bill known as the Creates Act, which cracks down on the tactics drug companies use to delay the introduction of cheaper generics.

Grassley told reporters that he is in talks with “Big Pharma” about using the savings from passing that bill to fund other priorities that drug companies want, likely a reference to a separate fix that drug companies have been pushing for to reduce their costs in Medicare.

"I think we're getting some talk between us and Big Pharma,” Grassley told reporters Monday evening. “Big Pharma's interested in the money that it brings in to offset some things they want done, and so we're in talks on that and I hope it can get done.”

The talks could be a way to finally get the Creates Act moving and get a bipartisan bill aimed at lowering drug prices over the finish line. The measure has been stalled for months, despite support from members of both parties, amid strong lobbying in opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

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Grassley indicated that opposition from drug companies could change if they can get the separate fix in exchange.

Namely, drug companies have been pushing to undo a provision from the budget deal in February that shifted significant new costs onto the pharmaceutical industry as part of closing a gap in Medicare coverage known as the “donut hole.”

The roughly $4 billion in savings from the Creates Act could be used to help pay for undoing that change.

Asked if they were open to a possible deal on those issues, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America declined to comment.

Grassley said he had thought that a similar deal could be worked out for inclusion in the government funding bill in March, but that it fell through at the time.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE’s announcement of a plan to lower drug prices earlier this month has increased talk about action, although Trump’s plan is largely focused on executive actions, not on Congress.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Wis.) said last week there are discussions on the Creates Act in the House as well. He said lawmakers are working on a “compromise” on the bill.

Grassley said he is also hoping for action on “pay for delay” legislation, which cracks down on branded drug companies paying generic companies to delay introduction of competitors.