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House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill

House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill
© Greg Nash

A group of 10 moderate House Democrats is signaling concerns with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Overnight Health Care: Biden pleads for more people to get vaccinated | Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety | Novavax COVID-19 vaccine shown highly effective in trial MORE’s (D-Calif.) signature legislation to lower prescription drug prices, raising further doubts about the legislation’s path forward.

Their letter to Pelosi calls for a drug pricing measure to be bipartisan and to “preserve our invaluable innovation ecosystem,” pointing to concerns that a bill could hurt drug companies’ ability to develop new drugs.

"We must garner bipartisan, bicameral support, with buy-in from a majority of Americans and stakeholders in the public and private sectors,” states the letter, sent earlier this month and obtained by The Hill. “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all, truly, must be in this together.”

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Pelosi’s H.R. 3 legislation, which would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices and cap prices based on prices paid in other countries, received only two Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019, and is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.

The letter, which was first reported by Stat, was led by Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersSenate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices Bipartisan 'family visitor visa' — unneeded and unwise Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response MORE (D-Calif.) and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.).

Matt Corridoni, an Auchincloss spokesman, even more explicitly raised concerns with H.R. 3.

“Jake does not think HR3 does enough for patients,” he said in a statement. “It doesn't materially lower their out of pocket costs and it prevents cures they need. This letter is starting a conversation about improving drug pricing reform.”

He pointed to alternatives like stopping patent abuse and encouraging “public-private collaboration.”

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Pelosi has made the drug pricing measure a priority, but its path was already unclear. President BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE left the measure out of his American Families Plan, despite pressure from many congressional Democrats, though in his address to lawmakers last month he did call for Congress to pass drug pricing legislation this year.

Democrats could add drug pricing back into the families plan as it makes its way through Congress, and progressives like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Politics of discontent: Who will move to the center and win back Americans' trust? MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalJayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure New Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Hillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator MORE (D-Wash.) are pushing for it.

But H.R. 3 also could be too strong to get through the Senate, where Democrats hold only 50 seats.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHydrogen isn't as clean as it seems The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week New Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing MORE (D-Ore.) has said changes could be needed, though he stressed the importance of having some form of negotiation for lower prices.

In response to the moderates’ letter, Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly said: “Polling shows strong action to lower outrageous prescription drug prices and stop Big Pharma from charging Americans three times or more than what they charge for the same medicines overseas is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.”

He said the House would pass the measure again, though did not specify a vehicle.

“That’s why House Democrats unanimously voted to pass HR3 last Congress to protect genuine innovation into new cures while stopping Big Pharma from charging Americans outrageous prices on medicines that were discovered decades ago,” he added. “Lowering drug prices is a pillar of House Democrats’ For The People agenda, and we will pass HR3 again this Congress.”

Other Democrats signing the letter are Reps. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderPharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill Blue Dogs push House leadership to allow more member input MORE (Ore.), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHouse moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill House GOP campaign arm adds to target list Lawmakers brace for bitter fight over Biden tax plan MORE (N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio Florida state senator announces bid for Demings's House seat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - One year later — has George Floyd's killing changed the world? MORE (Fla.), Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaLawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race MORE (Calif.), Marilyn Strickland (Wash.), Frank Mrvan (Ind.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe MORE (N.J.) and Tony Cárdenas (Calif.).