Senate panel schedules vote on controversial drug pricing bill

Senate panel schedules vote on controversial drug pricing bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that is is moving ahead this week on a controversial bill aimed at lowering drug prices.

The bill, known as the Creates Act, seeks to crack down on drug companies using tactics to delay the introduction of cheaper generic drugs onto the market. It has been stalled for months amid intense opposition from pharmaceutical companies, despite being sponsored by members of both parties.

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Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a sponsor of the bill, is forging ahead, seeking to lay down a marker through action by the panel.

Grassley has scheduled for the committee to consider the bill on Thursday. A committee aide said that under the panel’s procedures, consideration of the bill will likely not actually happen until next week.

The committee is expected to easily approve the measure, but the path forward after that is murky.

In the House, lawmakers are working on a “compromise” version of the bill, with talks ongoing between the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

Attention on drug pricing action has increased after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s speech last month calling for lowering drug prices, but Trump’s plan involves mostly executive action, not legislative.

Grassley said last month that he is seeking a breakthrough by talking with the pharmaceutical industry about a possible deal where they would relent on their opposition to the Creates Act in exchange for a fix to a Medicare provision that is costly to drug companies.

The Creates Act saves about $4 billion and so could be used to help pay for the fix for the Medicare provision that drug companies are seeking.

There are not many coming legislative vehicles for these measures, though, making the task harder.